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The Works

Using old maps

A Vancouver that no longer exists.

Old maps

I stayed in an Over The Top Airbnb in Gastown in Vancouver recently.

An old factory had been converted into lofts, and this was a Loft With Attitude: a bathtub in the middle of the room, an outstanding and random collection of chandeliers, and a closet door that was also an on-going work of art with contributions by guests.

In the lobby, I took the photo of me posing in front of an old map of the area, a version of Vancouver now long gone.

It brought to mind the idea of the palimpsest (yes, it took me three goes to spell it correctly): a manuscript that has had the old words washed off or scraped away, and new words written over them. The ghost of the old text remains, haunting the new text.

I could imagine a time lapse of maps of Vancouver, past versions being layered across the map in the background, changing, evolving, and gradually becoming the map of Vancouver that we might now pull up on our phones.

I suspect we’re palimpsests as well: we’ve got old stories that we delete, rewrite, and rewrite again.

Who we are today is not a fresh new story on a clean sheet of paper, but a story that’s been told and told again, and changed in the retelling. 

That can be helpful. In the retellings, you can keep finding and refining who you are as the lead character in this fascinating life of yours.

It can also not be helpful, as you find it difficult to move away from labels and roles you’ve previously had but that perhaps no longer serve you.

How can the next telling of this story be the most intriguing one yet? 

Why not start with you’re awesome and you’re doing great?

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.