“There are no straight lines in life,” says my friend sitting across from me, resting his elbows on the checkered table-cloth staring out past his coffee mug through the restaurant window. “What do you mean? You’ve had a pretty linear trajectory of success!” I reply, rubbing in the fact that he has just left me in Toronto, for the greener pastures of New York City. “Plus, the lines of these squares,” I say pointing to the red and white table-cloth, “are pretty perfect”.
“That’s exactly it, ” he says, “these lines only look perfect from a distance; and my life looks like a well-executed plan. But from the inside, there are no straight lines. With a microscope you could easily see the imperfections of the lines on this table-cloth, and if you ever sat with me on one of the countless days, when I had no clue where I was going, and was filled with doubt and uncertainty, you would see that my life only looks like a straight line in hindsight: these are all optical and perceptive illusions.”
“Remember when I visited you in New York,” I say, “and we went to hear Henry Rollins talk about his new book of photography. I think he was saying the same thing. Looking back on his career now, everything fits together, his music, his message, his publishing company and now his photography; but amidst this process, he didn’t know what the fuck was going to happen, or where he would end up.”
“Exactly, Rollins was articulating this very same idea; from the outside, we like to look at successful people and imagine that they knew where they would end up, nay, planned where they would be, from the start. This is a perfect way for us to stay paralyzed by fear, to make ourselves feel bad about not knowing where we are going, but the truth is, no one does: there are no straight lines, and that’s perfectly okay.”
I looked down at the table-cloth and noticed how the red and white threads had bled together in the tight weave, almost creating a soft pink blur at where they met, not a crisp line separating the two squares. I looked up at my friend, and saw how I had built up this idea of his life, being so perfect, so planned and so expertly executed, and noticed how I have held this illusion against the map of my life, at times using it as inspiration, but also fueling my doubt and insecurity.
Then I saw the soft blur of both our lives, the red and the white, the successes and failures, the dreams and realities, the dropped threads and the inconsistent patterns woven through decades of wondering, and wandering. There are no straight lines in life, no clear-cut paths, no red and white, we exist in at the soft meeting point of will and surrender, moving though life leaving a luminescent pink blur as we follow our truth.