When we are little we are taught to color. The smell of fresh wax fills our nose as we study the box with diligence. We pick a crayon out of the box with great care, making sure it is the best color. “Make sure to color in the lines,” we are told, “be careful to make neat edges.”
From a young age we are conditioned to many things. One of the things we are conditioned to do is to not color outside of the lines, both literally and figuratively. We are taught not to make waves. We are taught to be good girls. We are taught to follow directions and behave, and then to grow up and follow directions in a job that we are “supposed” to have.
It is a very constricting and confining feeling. We feel as if we are wrong when we want something bigger and bolder for ourselves. We feel anxious and guilty if our dreams exceed the lines that society has drawn, or even possibly the lines that we drawn for ourselves. When we do become emboldened to try step outside of the boundaries, we often become fearful and reprimand ourselves for being so brash and jump quickly back into our comfortable place of security.
What we should be taught, even from a young age, is to create our own lines. We should take the sayings “Reach for the stars” and “The sky is the limit” more literally. Although society’s lines are very confining, the structured lines we create for ourselves are almost more so.
We need to color outside of the lines.
I am personally working on not just creating new lines, but living lines-free—so to speak. I always imagine what my ideal career looks like, but I’m finding that when I create these grandiose shapes that I often get too overwhelmed by them—I just quit before I even start. Living up to my dream ideal is almost just as restricting as not being myself because it is so large a task to achieve.
Instead of lines, I am coloring towards a goal…slowly. I know where I want to end up—independent, powerful, confident, free—but I am allowing myself to be more flexible on how I get there. Life requires adaptation; the thing that works today or that worked yesterday will not always work tomorrow, and this is okay. This often means that lines are just not going to work. Plans need to be fluid and changeable. It is necessary to have goals for ourselves, but realizing that the action steps to get there may change a hundred times before we get there. In fact, we may also find that the steps we accomplish lead us to a new goal that we hadn’t even realized we wanted, but is something that we were destined toward. Flexibility required.
Like many new experiences, coloring outside of the lines or having no guidelines at all will likely be uncomfortable and scary. These are the necessary components of growth as an individual. When we stretch and challenge ourselves we become better and move closer to the lives we strive for. To be sure, pick the best and prettiest crayon in the box, but use a blank piece of paper when creating your path to your own destiny.