3 Life Lessons Learned from Lines

Life is like a line: It’s a series of moments strung together to form a unique trajectory as time moves forward. I like lines. They help me see where I’m going or at the very least where I think I should be going. Their very existence has convinced me that there is a method to define at least one kind of madness, and in a certain sense, this comforts me. The following metaphor is a little clunky, so I ask for some grace from this former English major as I jump into the world of Math.

I still remember one moment in a math class many,many moons ago when a teacher first explained to me that a line is a series of points that have been connected together. I’m sure some of you made that connection around age five when you were connecting dots in order to form pictures of teddy bears and houses and cars. For me that realization came several years later, and it settled in deep.

Graph 1Lines made even more sense to me when I learned how to graph them. Connecting (0,1) and (1,2) creates one type of line while (0,1) and (4,16) creates an entirely different one. Each of these paired points is joined by little tiny points pushed up against each other. The points can be microscopic,but each one matters because it carries the line forward.

Looking at life now, it makes sense that each moment represents a point on the plotted trajectory of my life. Each day brings many different opportunities to plot points, and as time goes by, these points transform into something that maps where I’ve been. I can reflect on my life and the moments that comprise it and generally get a sense of what direction I’m headed in.

Sometimes I have moments that leave me feeling like my points are all lining up the way I’d like – good conversations with friends, positive feedback at work, successfully cooking a tasty meal – and then there are other moments where it seems like things aren’t lining up the way I’d like – eating alone because I’m too afraid to ask if I can join someone for lunch, having a “let’s just be friends” conversation, finding out my close friend is moving. All of these things can happen at one time, and then I’m left with so many ups and downs that I don’t know where I’m headed.

What I know is that it was nice when plotting trajectories was as simple as joining two points. When I try to put my life on a graph where I’m trying to look for “success” or anything else to grow over time, it’s not quite as simple. That said, I try to remember these three things when thinking about Lines and Life.

Graph 2Every person’s line is different – Too often I try to compare my life to others. I look at facebook. I read stories. I hear people talking. I try to remind myself that my line looks different from everyone else’s and that’s good because no one else can live my life. I need to remember to be grateful for the opportunities I’m presented with, and to be empathetic as others share their stories, whether that means celebrating with them or crying with them.



Graph 3Lines don’t always go where we think they are going – Don’t we all know this one? I try to predict the future or control where things are going. I have an image in my head of how I want things to go, and I have to admit that my real life rarely looks like it does in my head. Sometimes it’s better and other times not so much, but I need to remember to leave room for things to change and to roll with the ups and downs as they come.

There is always time to change the direction of a line– As my friend reminded me after I told her about retreating to my car with a book today so that I didn’t have to endure the awkward moments of feeling like no one wanted to eat with me – tomorrow offers a new chance to choose something different. That moment will come again, and while it won’t look exactly the same, there are things that I can do that can point me in a new direction.

What moments stand out when you look back at the course of your life? What other lessons have you learned about stringing together the moments that shape your life?