Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mapping Morgan

"This is making me sad," she said.

"It's OK," I reassured my Abs, my roomie, my wanderlust girl.

I proceeded to tell her why it was actually a good thing for me to rearrange the pushpins on my bulletin board, on the living room floor Sunday evening.

About a year and a half ago, I was wandering the streets of Santa Monica with my friends, Tim, Wendy, and Tom, when we ambled into a paper goods store where I found a map. It was cheap, maybe five dollars, a somewhat archaic but mostly accurate print of the United States, pieces of Canada and Mexico running off the page.

I excitedly purchased it and later affixed it to a bulletin board in my studio apartment. With cutesy polka-dotted thumbtacks, I pierced each city I had visited or lived in. The Midwest became crowded with blue circles, charting my many road trips, flights home from my Indiana college, drives to Wisconsin to see Grams. High school here, middle school there.

I had only seen Indianapolis twice, briefly each time and never really explored the city, but I considered it fair grounds to receive a thumbtack, marking me a legitimate cosmopolite. I was careful not to puncture Atlanta, though its airport once springboarded me across the sea into Africa, a significant assist. Had to play by the rules, though: Airport-only cities don't count.

Over time I was able to add circles to Ensenada, Buffalo, Maui. My parents and friends came to visit, and they helped me poke holes through other regions I had forgotten. Sections of Iowa, Florida, South Dakota that we had visited together.

The board became a talking point, a look at what I had done, a hope for where I could later venture.

This weekend, I decided to take it down.

Carefully, I removed each pin, almost 50 regions losing their badge as cultural capitols. I pulled them from their places gently, so as to preserve the map for a potential future wall-hanging.

While Abby grieved, I felt quite alright going through these actions.

Because I was clearing the board to make room for a new journey.

Instead of replacing the U.S. map with one of the world, I stuck, one by one in the cork, notecards. Each one written on in colorful marker in my scratchy freehand, I made neat columns of my words.

MY words.

MY journey.

Well, Morgan's journey, really, but directed by me. I'm the captain of this ship.

Numbered 1 through 59, the notecards mark the struggles and triumphs of my middle school protagonist, Morgan.

While I write my novel, I'm not putting travel on hold. I've already got a cruise booked to Mexico, another one in the works for Europe, and Machu Picchu is regularly in my daydream Rolodex.

But I'm more than willing to dismantle my cork board cartography to make room for this new journey of mine.

While I became interested in traveling to Africa during college, I've wanted to write since I was wee. This journey has been a longer time coming than anyone I can take on foot, or by jet, or a boat weighed down with booze and endless food.

I once copied the words from Amelia Bedelia, slowing typing them onto my parents' typewriter. I used to have a tic that would involve me spelling words with my finger, my leg as a canvas for the invisible air-ink. I remember peer editing in third grade, the joy I got from using a red pen. Not knowing quite what the career meant, I declared I wanted to be an editor.

Etc. etc.

I've just always had this thing inside me, begging to get out, like a dream that wants to be birthed as words on a page.

That sounded really unicorn-y and spiritual retreat-y, but go with me on this.

The map will always be there. I can get another bulletin board, more pushpins, a fresh passport. But if I don't start now on what I've wanted to do since childhood, no one's going to force me to, and it may never get done. And that scares me more than the prospect of never visiting Peru.

So notecards? Welcome.


  1. Not that it is a bad thing but this makes me sad, too. I am hopeful for you in all ambitions you decide to take on. May all my reservations dissolve. Good luck bmb, ily.

    1. Don't worry, the wanderlust is not gone!!