To colour or not to colour

Year after year I was determined to make it happen for my daughters.

Boil the eggs. Cover the table in plastic. Fill bowls with water and vinegar. Set out an array of spoons and tongs. Get the food coloring ready. Wrap the kids in aprons and begin the fun.

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Colouring Easter eggs is one of those activities that, for me, was considerably less fun than people made it out to be.

It's like S'mores. In theory I should really enjoy them. What's not to love about chocolate and marshmallows sandwiched between graham wafers? But for whatever reason, somewhere between idea and execution it just falls flat for me. But each year we undertook the task of colouring eggs because…well…that's what we're supposed to do.

We helped our girls as they created their colorful eggs to be nestled in the plastic grass in the basket that held their handiwork. They had fun, and that's what mattered. To be honest, for me it was like gingerbread houses or carving pumpkins—something I felt I had to do to fulfill the requirements of the season, much more so than something I looked forward to actually doing.

So one year I decided to approach it a bit differently. Since I was of little joy in colouring eggs, I let daddy handle that task solo while I put my effort into something else. I created treasure hunts using Bible verses that led our daughters to their baskets on Easter Sunday. Each year he helped with the eggs and I would put new hunts together. They loved it. So did I. The result can be pretty great when the right person fills the right role.

The time spent thinking we need to live up to other’s expectations is time taken away from doing what we actually like, or are good at. One analyst said pleasing others is like chasing a moving target. If we are trying to live up to other’s expectations, we are essentially living someone else’s life.

It follows then, that frustration is what fills the gap between what you think people expect you to do and what you actually want to do. Who needs that?

Sarah was a new student at the high school where my husband and I worked, and she was curious about the musical we were directing. She asked what sort of behind-the-scenes things she could help with, but it seemed there was something else she wanted to talk about so I encouraged her to come out and audition.

We had all students sing for us, even if they weren’t pursuing a role, because we had often been able to encourage reluctant students to take on small roles or be in the chorus. They just needed to be supported to dip their toe in the pool.

Sarah had experienced discouragement about singing and was told not to waste her time. She was pulled in other directions and felt obligated to live up to other people's hopes. She tried other things again and again because she didn’t want to disappoint, but you could tell it took its toll on her.

Sarah stood in front of us, took and deep breath and launched into an audition that gave me goosebumps. Within a few bars I knew we had one of our leading ladies. Not having sung in public or shown interest in the school’s music program, it was a revelation that someone could have kept such talent under the radar. But she did, until she was ready to defy the expectations others had placed on her.

Sarah was fantastic. She wowed the audience and went on to win the Most Promising Novice Award. She told me later she felt she found her place and thanked us for letting her pursue what she’d been nervous to because it didn’t fit what people expected of her. We felt fortunate she was willing to push past all of that because she was an important piece of the show. The result can be pretty great when the right person surprises in the right role.

The doors that others may want us to walk through will feel like we’re pushing against concrete if it’s not tapping into our talents, but they’ll more easily swing open if we let our abilities lead the way. The key is not letting anyone else dictate what we should be doing. So sing, lead, train, run, paint, write, study or take a pass on all of it, including coloring eggs, in favor of a better fit. Wonderful things happen when we give ourselves the freedom to fill the right role. That’s my outlook.

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