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Life Is Not A Straight Line

look downstairs into stairwell whirl
Creative Commons License photo credit: quapan

It’s tempting to think that as time moves forward, so do you.  You grow further as a human being, more of your goals are fulfilled, your career gets better, your relationships get better, your life becomes “more and more.”

But the reality is that sometimes you have to backtrack (this is always a little frustrating).  Or something off to the side catches your eye and you go to explore it.  At others times you walk around in circles longer than you care to admit (and probably don’t even know it at the time!).  And still, at other times you feel stuck so you sit down right where you are and don’t move for a bit.

Even though you could say that life always moves forward, forward doesn’t always mean straight ahead.

Forward can mean backtracking.

Forward can mean getting sidetracked.

Forward can mean circling around.

Forward can mean sitting still for a little while.

As frustrating as it feels to not be moving in the straight line you think you should be, these “diversions” are usually necessary.

Some of my best moments have not happened on the “straight line”, but happened when I had to turn around, or make my way through the brush, or stopped to sit and think because I felt stuck.

This is surely something I haven’t seen the last of, and although I can’t say that I look forward to these times, I think I become a little more accepting of them as I walk a little further.  🙂

How do you deal with the twists and turns of life when you wish you were going straight ahead?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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  1. Why would one wish to go straight ahead? To me there is nothing more sublime than being lost in a foreign city. If there is discomfort in the twists and turns it is simply rigid expectations that are the culprit – as usual.

  2. MichaelINFP MichaelINFP

    Hi Amanda,

    I just discovered your blog/website and I’m glad you’re out there sharing your often INFP-oriented thoughts.

    On your current post, there’s so much to say, because it connects to so many ideas–consistent with the point of your post, that there are many ways “forward,” many ways to connect any given experience or insight or talent, or challenge, to any number of next steps.

    One quick angle for now: Growing because of obstacles is one way in which a life doesn’t follow straight lines, but rather gets shoved, limited, perhaps temporarily beaten down, and then transcends. Eric Hoffer wrote that “The formidableness of the human species stems from the survival of its weak…” and “Unlike the pattern which seems to prevail in the rest of life, in the human species the weak not only survive but often triumph over the strong.” For examples one can think of the “Napoleon complex” of a short man feeling extra motivation to make it “big,” or even of one born into poverty or oppression who uses such handicaps to spring farther into productivity and appreciation of freedom…or the proverbial artist making creative use of pain.

    Anyway, ‘glad to have discovered your blog. Keep up the good work.

  3. Amanda,

    First of all, I loved how you developed this post. I think you are very correct that life doesn’t always take the straight path and sometimes that’s not so bad.
    I think your explanations for what “forward” can mean were very well expressed. I know I have experienced all of these at some time in my life.

    There have many times when I’ve started out on one path, thinking it was the “right”one, only to discover it was just a beginning of many paths. As I grow older, I am becoming better at seeing the path I’m on as less a straight line and more an adventurous curvy road to explore:~)

  4. Hi, Amanda. I’ve been away from the blogging world for a while but was so happy to see that you are still going strong. 🙂

    One of the things I can tell you is that I have had a crash course in “being” non-linearly simply by moving to Greece. Even though it is considered a European country, there are still many ways of doing things here that seem to me far more Eastern than what is traditionally done in the West. Things are not straightforward; there is a “dance” involved in most things. A Greek friend told me last night: Life’s a puzzle. Get into the puzzle. Play in it.

    Fantastic, no?

  5. This post was a real affirmation for me. I was driving straight forward in my career only to find that I didn’t want to be where I had arrived. After more than a year of misery, I took a voluntary step back. I am so much happier. My only regret is that I was too hard-headed to do it sooner.

    Thanks for such a beautiful and insightful post!

  6. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Trish – Agreed! 🙂

    Hi Michael – Thanks for commenting 🙂 It’s nice to have another INFP around! I like your point here about obstacles and becoming stronger and the ways that we get “pushed” off of that straight line.

    Hi Sara – The “right” path and the straight line seem to go together, don’t they? I guess the “right” path is whichever one you are on now. 🙂

    Hi Chania Girl – “Get into the puzzle.” I like that. 🙂

    Hi Meg – Yes! It can be so hard to take a step backwards, even if that’s exactly where you need to go.

  7. I am one who isn’t sure that there is a straight line – perhaps my path is about taking the side roads, following my intution and my passion. I don’t know if there is a straight road to travel through life – it is all an adventure.

    What a thought inspring post.

  8. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi The Exception – Yes, I think that the “straight line” might be mostly a myth. 😉

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