300-word story: A man spends the first forty years of his life playing by the rules.
I've been a loyal follower of rules for as long as I can remember. As a child, I loved activities formed around guidelines: dot-to-dots, colouring books, paint-by-numbers, anything that had unquestionable structure. If it told me what to do and guaranteed a clear outcome, I was one satisfied kid.
This mentality continued into adolescence, filling my weekends with jigsaw puzzles, modelling kits, origami creatures that would become gruesome parodies if you dared to experiment with the folds, which I never did. The same applied to my education too; naturally, I studied Economics at university, as anything else would have been pure frivolity.
Fast forward another twenty years and here I am, the sales manager for a packaging company, married with three children, living in a suburban belt, a pet Staffie, the most commonplace of dogs. It's a textbook life. There are holidays but never adventures, financial stability rather than destructive wealth, casual friendships in place of BFFs, LinkedIn profile but no Instagram. Each day is safety and consistency incarnate, and until recently I wouldn't have had it any other way.
See, last week I turned forty and my priorities shifted overnight. Suddenly I saw my existence for what it truly was: a predestined success, lacking any danger, anxiety or failures to give it texture. Now I realise that achievement without risk is an empty victory – for each predictable win, I forfeited an opportunity to explore my options.
Today, that changes. It will come as a shock, but I'm sure that in time my family will understand. If I don't do it now I never will, instead following directions as I have ever since I could hold a crayon. Today, all of that comes to an end and the real version of me emerges. Today, I finally colour outside the lines.
Copyright © 2020 Rich Sutherland
Image: Ramakant Sharda