It’s not uncommon for my children to pull out a pile of paper and box of crayons and begin coloring on the floor next to my computer while I work. Each of them enjoy thumbing through coloring books searching for the perfect picture to bring to life with colors such as cotton candy and electric lime.
But my youngest daughter isn’t as interested in coloring books. She likes to create her own pictures. Oh sure, she’ll color in a picture of a turtle but she’ll make it bright purple. Then she’ll draw a house and family on the turtle’s back and think up a story to tell me.
I’ve been considering my daughter’s willingness to draw outside the lines and create something on her own as my job winds down over the next few weeks.
Having been brought up in a Mormon family, I’ve often felt like my life’s roadmap has much in common with a coloring book. I’m free to select the crayon’s color as long as I color within the lines.
As a young boy, I was taught the proper progression into manhood: High school followed by serving a mission and then college. And make sure you find your eternal companion during the latter half of that span or risk having my records sent to a single’s ward. Eventually settle into a safe and stable job and have a few kids along the way. Just don’t get too crazy.
Of course, nobody from the church followed me around with a checklist to ensure I didn’t stray outside the lines, like the time I took a year off college so my spouse could finish her degree. Or the time I had my ear pierced or decided to leave Utah.
Few question the path of least resistance. Tell friends you’re thinking of going back to school to become a teacher and they praise the decision. But tell them you’ve started a company and their first question is, “What will you do for health insurance?”
It’s much safer to follow the plan created by someone else (and followed by many) than it is to create my own. My career so far has set expectations that are not easy to change. The lines are painted thick. Probably three or four coats worth.
Yet I find inspiration in my daughter. I want to do everything I can to keep her spirit free from all the borders the world tries to impose on her.
Because I know the next time she draws me a picture of an evil snowman, it will be an original. One not found in any coloring book.