Within the Lines

Erika Petrelli
Erika Petrelli
Within the Lines

So much of life seems to depend on simply staying within the lines. Erika mulls upon this, and the impact it has upon our lives and our sense of creativity

I am the world’s worst parker.

Even if I was the sole car in a cavernous parking lot, I would still park crooked, or too close to the lines. I simply can’t park straight and centered within the lines of a parking spot. Can’t do it.

I believe this is a reflection of my genius.

Clearly, I cannot be confined by lines. I think I must still intuitively know what very young children know – lines are meant to be “suggestions,” mere guides on what choices you might make with your crayon… or your minivan.

There is the smallest smidge of a possibility that it also means I really need to make that eye appointment, but that’s neither here nor there.

As children we learn to color within the lines. We work very hard to do this – my four-year-old daughter is becoming more and more dogged in her determination to color within the lines (my husband was held hostage for nearly an hour at an arts and crafts table a few weeks ago because of that determination). This is a good thing; it helps the development of fine motor skills, it helps us learn how to draw specific shapes and figures. Many have argued that an artist needs a canvas on which to paint – a natural boundary – within the limits of the canvas an artist can be free to create, the “lines” create freedom.

All this said, I think sometimes we take the whole “stay within the lines” concept a bit too far and, in doing so, squelch our children’s natural instincts to explore, discover, create.

As adults we are obsessed with “staying within the lines” too, but not just in coloring books (though watch any parent coloring next to their child and you will see some pretty meticulous don’t-interrupt-my-staying-within-the-lines-crayon-work). No, our lines are different. They are lines that establish how we should dress, how we should act, what kind of job we should seek, what kind of dwelling we should establish, what our opinions are.

Lines are important. There is value to them and there is a time and a place for them.  But they aren’t the only options. We can make our own lines, and those can be valuable too.

Also, when you make your own lines, don’t worry too much about how perfectly you stay within them – sometimes a little bit crooked is a lot beautiful.

How can you make your own lines? 


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Erika Petrelli

By Erika Petrelli

Erika Petrelli is the Senior Vice President of Leadership Development (and self-declared Minister of Mischief) for The Leadership Program, a New York City-based organization. With a Masters degree in Secondary Education, Erika has been in the field of teaching and training for decades, and has been with The Leadership Program since 1999. There she has the opportunity to nurture the individual leadership spirit in both students and adults across the country, through training, coaching, keynotes, and writing. The legacy Erika strives daily to create is to be the runway upon which others take flight. If you enjoy these blogs, you should check out her interactive journal, On Wings & Whimsy: Finding the Extraordinary Within the Ordinary, now available for sale on Amazon. While her work takes her all around the country, Erika calls Indiana home.