When I was a kid, my mom would scold me for staying within the lines on my coloring books.
As soon as she would walk away, I would return to the comfort of coloring within the lines and making my grass green and skies blue like my Ritchie Rich comic books. Perhaps this was the safe haven engineering offered early in my career. A vocation experienced, for the most part, within the lines. It was all about solving problems and getting from point A to point B as fast as possible, or at least faster than the next guy. It’s the American way as they say.
Funny how things change
The most meaningful experiences I have had have been the result of having strayed, sometimes by intention, but more times by accident outside the lines, and coloring the sky purple. New careers, public speaking, and Haiti mission trips to name a few.
The challenge has become that as I age, however, venturing outside the lines is more difficult. The complacency of routine undermines the yearn for new experiences. Recently a good friend of mine invited me to an improv acting class. I was surprised at my hesitancy to accept, wondering how much of an ass I would make of myself if I did. The class turned out to be a blast of course, and have since used one of the warm up exercises with a client.
But I didn’t plan on it and wouldn’t have even thought of attending if I hadn’t been pushed outside the lines. Further, I noticed something important in the process. I am more present outside the lines. I am paying attention to the situation, what the other person is saying, how they are feeling, where we are standing, what the weather is like. On everything but me.
Nowadays, when I see a coloring book I smile. I think of purple skies and coloring outside the lines. Because that is where life is.