Roadmap: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do with Your Life

There’s a meme that pops up every so often that says something like “I go to work to pay for all the things I don’t have time to enjoy because I have to go to work.” At the center of Roadmap: The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do with Your Life by Nathan Gebhard, Brian McAllister, and Mike Marriner, is the rejection of exactly this kind of blind consumerism.

Roadtrip Nation, a long running television show, an educational organization, and a movement of people determined to pursue living lives true to their interest. The movement was born when Gebhard, McAllister, and Marriner graduated college with a burning desire to find what they call “fresh perspectives” and “thinking space” to combat “a nagging sense that how we’d been taught to think about our futures was, in fact, deeply wrong.” This book is, in essence, a travel guide through their experiences, but also an invitation to find your own way.

The brilliance of this book is that it doesn’t rely on one perspective or seem to have a sole purpose. Instead, at times it reads like a good-old-Tony-Robbins-inspired self-actualization book, replete with delving questions like “What truly inspires me?” And, a plea for the reader to “Stop watching your life from the sidelines.” While this is an enjoyable aspect of this book—and one that that authors fully acknowledge as somewhat trite—it isn’t until the reader begins to learn about people who have created a life they love for themselves that the deeper implications set in.

Roadmap is an intense piece of storytelling when the narrative turns to those people who, according to the authors, live in “Beta version.” “Beta Version” is a term the authors use to refer to people who are “continually building better versions” of themselves, keeping those pieces that work well and realizing that life is to be lived as a work in progress, never as a finished masterpiece. Whether that means being a kitemaker, engineer, and inventor like Peter Lynn or Jad Abumrad, host of WNYC’s award-winning program “Radiolab,” the book soars beyond feel-good mantras and unites us in our diversity, while at the same time recognizing that this life is not the American Dream most of us were led to believe.

However, the most dynamic aspect of the book, the component that makes this book something really special, is the counterculture philosophy that takes the reader down some backroads that just might leave one feeling a little lost. Fundamentally, getting a little lost is the point of Roadmap. Some of the abstract concepts in the “You Are Your Decisions” chapter are striking. For example, think about the statement “What you do today is who you are.” Turning that on myself, I wonder, “Ok, so does that mean that I’m an enthusiastic ELA teacher, more than decent Chimichanga maker, mom taxi-driver, late night writer, and an absent minded, but loving wife who didn’t buy dog food?” And, if that is me today, is that who I want to be tomorrow? If not, then I’ve got some work to do. If I am happy with this iteration, then I can shed the “noise” of other people’s expectations.  

If this sounds a tad overwhelming, it is because it is, by design. The authors though would take that as the highest compliment. As the book came to an end, as all good road trips do, the authors ask, “So what have you begun to imagine yourself doing? Have you let yourself believe that what you dream isn’t just possible, but inevitable?” The next time that meme pops up in your feed, hopefully you’ll scroll right past, knowing that it doesn’t apply to you, you’ve become a part of #RoadtripNation.

About “GenDIY”
Young people are taking control of their own pathway to careers, college and contribution. Powered by digital learning, “GenDIY” is combatting unemployment and the rising costs of earning a degree by seeking alternative pathways to find or create jobs they love. Follow their stories here and on Twitter at #GenDIY

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Amber Chandler

Amber Chandler is a middle school teacher at Frontier Middle School in Hamburg, NY.

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