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Thoughts on Coloring

Sarah Mervosh | Sunday, February 7, 2010

As a child, I remember choosing each crayon color with meticulous precision as I created my coloring book masterpiece. It was always a huge debate. Blue or green. Red or purple.

I saw each crayon color as distinct and irreplaceable. If I lost my green crayon, it seemed like the end of the world because I could no longer draw aliens, trees or grass.

But what I didn’t realize then is that I could make green by combining blue and yellow. It wasn’t the perfect, manufactured green I was used to, but it worked fine all the same.

And so it is with life. Day to day struggles seem like the end of the word when seen without context or a larger perspective. When our significant other breaks up with us, it feels like we’ll never love again. When we do poorly in a class, we jump to the conclusion that we won’t get into medical or law school.

But what we really need to do is take each broken relationship, every failed test and learn from it. Try different boyfriends, different study strategies, different crayon colors, until we learn what works best.

Sooner or later, we learn that combining yellow and blue makes green, and maybe that green crayon wasn’t so necessary after all. We learn that one failed test isn’t a reflection on our intellectual abilities. We learn that life goes on after break-ups, and we even learn to love again.

Life isn’t one-dimensional, and it sure as hell isn’t perfect. So why were we taught that we could only use the green crayon to draw grass and that a “pretty” drawing was one that stayed inside the lines of the coloring book design?

I spent my whole childhood striving to choose the “right” crayon colors and making sure not one crayon mark went outside the line. This is also how I’ve lived most of my life.

I needed to get straight A’s in high school, and admittedly, most of the time I still feel like I do. But as I get older, I’m starting to get more comfortable with imperfection.

I’m slowly allowing myself to deviate from the pre-drawn design in the coloring book. After I get over the initial feeling of panic, it usually turns out to be kind of fun. At the very least, I always find my way back to the coloring book page with new colors to use and a new perspective.

Maybe John Mayer said it better than I can: “They love to tell you stay inside the lines, but something’s better on the other side.”