I don’t color in the lines very well. I often want to. I look at other people and think that what they’ve done is pretty and neat, so much tidier than I could manage.
And by coloring in the lines I mean all the idiomatic meanings… I run my own business. People can hire me, pay for my time, and tell me what to do. But I can always say no. They aren’t the boss of me; I am the boss of me. And, by the way, I don’t want to be the boss of you either.
Let’s take a trivial example… I’ve already mentioned that I use a haphazard ratiometric approach to baking cookies, never able to reproduce a particular baked good unless it it yummy enough to write down the recipe. And then I never consider following the recipe that I wrote down, always tweaking it here and there.
So it was a little odd that last week, having agreed to bring dessert to a potluck, I baked two kinds of cookies, following the recipes as best as I was able. And they both worked out really, really well.
The first was a chocolate chip cookie. Now, it is hard to have a bad chocolate chip cookie. I think the only disastrous ones were when I used old fashion oatmeal that was a little too old fashioned. The oat husks stuck out at odd angles from the top of the cookie and bit back when I tried to eat them. But the cookies from Cooks Illustrated were fantastic.
Loads and loads of butter but they were crunchy and chewy at the same time. Really yummy.
The other cookies were odd: 2 egg whites whipped to stiff peaks, 2 cups brown sugar (chunks broken up) and 2 cups pecans folded gently in then baked at 350F for 20 min. Given the recipe, I expected them to taste like pecan candy. Instead, they were like chunky macaron outer cookies.
In fact, mixed one a plate with the chocolate chip cookies, both brown and chunky, my husband thought the pecan cookies were the chocolate chip cookies and said there were good but only subtly chocolatey. The pecan meringues were very cookie like and the texture was right for the chips. They were odd but really good; nice to remember when you need gluten-free, lactose-free cookies.
Both cookies went over well at the potluck. I felt like an integrated member of society. Having colored in the lines actually turned out well. On the other hand, the potluck was a cross section of software engineers, ballet dancers and motorcycle riders; possibly conforming to regular societal norms was the most nonconformist thing I could have done at that particular party. Sheesh, I didn’t think of that but I also wore a pretty linen skirt…
I tweeted recently about having left the keys to social interaction on the table at home. I’d had an incident at work where I misread the cues, thought it was time to work when it was time to chat and I felt hideously awkward. Hence the tweet. The response was amusing, clearly I am not the only one who feels like everyone else has a key and I’m trying to pick the lock.
Coloring in the lines is my response to that feeling. Except… well, except I can only keep it up for a limited time before I burn out. Yes, now I can make two really good cookies from recipe. So? Anyone can make these cookies. It wasn’t even hard let alone creative. No one but me can wander around my kitchen, picking herbs from the garden, fruit about to go bad, and ingredients on hand and say, “You know what we need? Lavender-blueberry muffins!” (My husband squawked and then later admitted the sweet/spice of lavender went really well with the blueberries.)
I feel like I should start singing “I gotta be meeeeeee!” but I waver. A lot. The confidence is usually an act. I want to be confident in who and what I am, hideous disasters and all (I swear the goal was not mint extract in the strawberry crepes, it was supposed to be vanilla!). But I’m not. I used to think that this feeling would go away when I grew up. But I think that already happened when I wasn’t watching.
Today at work, I’ll be refusing to color in the lines. I had a minor meltdown yesterday after trying too hard to do what they want, even though it is wrong (and stupid and untestable and a poor user experience). I shouldn’t have tried so hard but I want them to like me; every time I ventured outside the lines, the manager hit my knuckles with a ruler (metaphorically, of course). Getting frustrated doesn’t help. And I am the boss of me! So if this is a product I think is going to hell because of poor vision, well, I can take my ball of talent and go elsewhere (eek!). Or they can watch the picture I create, if they simply tell me what they want and let the lines fall naturally.