Speculative Autobiography

Has anybody ever asked you: where do you see yourself in ten years? The question is a pain in the ass. I can speculate, I can hope, I can dream, but the exercise is ludicrous. It reminds me of those maps people used to draw of North America before everything was actually figured out. At best they look incomplete. At worst they look absurd and naïve.



other map


I don’t know if there’s a name for this phenomenon (the making of a map for that which is unknown). A preliminary internet search brought up the term ‘speculative cartography’. That works. Any answer to the question ‘where do you see yourself in ten years?’ is also speculative cartography. Hell, what will happen tomorrow is questionable. My knowing what my plans for 2023 is like Columbus charting a route through the Rocky Mountains from Havana.

However, we give it a shot. We draw a map. We begin with what’s at-hand, what’s known, what’s most immediate. For the early map makers, this meant drawing a map of the Eastern Seabord. This part of their map is outstanding, intimate and detailed. In my case- my Eastern Seabord- I work at a tea shop. I write. I practice meditation. I like talking with people about ideas and the shit we go through.

Next, we move on to what’s partially known. Maybe it’s the general outline of a mountain range or the Mississippi. I know that I’m travelling to Europe next summer. I’ll be visiting my cousins’ herbal tea farm. I might, while I’m out there, fly over to China and visit my friend who’s living in an ancient tea growing district. All that stuff having to do with tea and different cultures will connect somehow either with the work I currently do or my proclivity for writing or both. That’s not as distinct as my present circumstances, but it’s still tangible.

Now, moving onto Alaska. That nebulous blob that may or may not even be there. If it is, who knows what it’s like or how far it goes. The uncharted territory of five, ten years from now. I imagine myself running a center in Chicago where I sell tea from Austria and China through relationships I developed in my travels and host events like yoga, group therapy and philosophical discussions. Now we’re talking. In ten years, that’ll sound absurd, but possibly an element of it will be true.

Try it for yourself. What’s your eastern seabord? What’s your heard-of-but-not-seen Rocky Mountains? What’s your Northwest Territory, your Unknown?


I didn’t even talk about all the important stuff. All that focus on my ‘career’, I didn’t stop to think about who or what I’ll lose and gain. Who’s going to get sick or die? Will I get sick or die? Who’s going to pop into my life? A new friend, a new love? What beliefs will I come to adopt, which will I abandon? That is really unknown.

It’s best to draw this map in pencil. To use the newly drawn borders as guides rather than limits and inhibitions. Ready to be erased or expanded as the case may be.

Closing thought: the details of today, the intricate lines we take to be so important. Right now they’re blown out of proportion, because it’s all we know. One day, standing on the other side, they’ll be indistinct, distant and vague. A friend said it right the other day, Don’t sweat the small stuff. Oh! It’s all small stuff.

  1. #1 by Anonymous on November 11, 2013 - 11:02 am

    Well done Ben.

    • #2 by Gopher Padfoot on November 11, 2013 - 4:15 pm

      This plan may not be so far in the distant future. Today (one day after writing this) someone, an aspiring herbalist and herbal tea blendmaster, asked me (without reading this post) if I’d be interested in setting up such a center! Woah…


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