Oh, it doesn't take too long to realize that once you pop out of the womb, you are immediately and forthwith sent to the circus. Clowns to the left of you, jokers to the right, the elephant in the room, the surly circus bear, the jugglers, and you, you are sent to the high-wire, with a net underneath that ranges from springy and forgiving to non-existent.

You will spend your whole life walking the line. Your act of balance is your carnival job, sometimes to the entertainment of the popcorn-munching audience.

My natural inclination is to stare down at any given line, and resent it for being there at all. Fuck You, Line, I say, wondering who exactly put it there and how much attention I should give it. Bah. I am a Line Stepper-Offer. But of course, this sometimes does not work out very well, and you take a Karl Wallenda to the pavement. Provided death this time was not the outcome, you get up again, climb the ladder and face down another line, or the same line. Your rational brain is supposed to be your steadying pole, to help you decide how far to gently tip to either side to constantly readjust to what goes on around you. Mr. Spock should've joined the circus. But he is no fun, and humans have feelings and emotions that make their feet wobbly, their hearts beat wildly,and errant smiles break out, all of which can be fun, or frightening, but definitely more on the Captain Kirk side of the deal.

Lines force you to make decisions, evaluate, reason. They keep you in place, and take you to another place. They are a challenge, and a restriction. They can make you dizzy with fear, or bold with confidence. You can cross them, blur them, draw them, throw them, be hung out to dry on them, even need one to survive. Every choice you make, you are somewhere walking on a line, even though you may not be aware of it.

The circus is always in town because it is the town. Sometimes you will make it across your high-wire to applause, spotlights, the Master of Ceremonies calling your name. Much more often, you cross alone, or fall, without so much as a peanut from the peanut gallery. The rewards and failures are yours, and only really known to you. With any luck as the years go by you gain more experience, the falls are fewer, and you have reinforced that damn net as best you can, and a pink horse with a huge feathery plume on its head hasn't surreptitiously chewed through the rope as you were adjusting your leotard.

Marina Topley-Bird, "Carnies."