happenstance.

In one of my classes we had to watch a movie recently where a high school student from a mining town, who was the son of a coal miner witnessed the passing stream of Sputnik, and it changed his life forever.

The movie followed our discussion and reading on a man named Krumbolzt whose theory finds indecision about career paths desirable and sensible; giving us the opportunity to learn and grow from unplanned events. The movie was October Sky, and while I initially wasn’t that interested in the required watch, I really enjoyed it. The main character witnesses this event and becomes obsessed with making rockets, even when his father tries to stop him, or his school officials get in the way, and being based on a true story, we know that he eventually worked for NASA.

And it got me thinking.

How many things in my life are the way they are based on one single incident or decision?

(or lack of decision)

How different might things be if I didn’t jump on the unplanned opportunities or see or hear something that piqued my interest?

How far back can I think about things that I did, or didn’t do that built on each other? (The answer is pretty far back…)

When I was working at Uno’s sometime in 2000 or so, and all my friends were going to New Orleans and I opted not to go because I had a French midterm that week; and ended up chatting with a guy online who later became a long time on and off tumultuous relationship. Would we ever have met if I went on the trip? Could I have avoided years of annoying on again off again bullshit? Or would we have met another time and had a happily ever after (SO GLAD WE DIDN’T) …

When my family was moving to Wisconsin in 2002, and I was already beyond old enough to stick around in Jersey on my own, would I have chosen to do that if I didn’t have as shitty night at my waitressing job and get into an argument with said boyfriend before deciding I could do both of those things anywhere?

When I was in Wisconsin and hating it and decided to reply to an email I got from an old love interest, what would have happened if I didn’t reply? Or didn’t keep up the correspondence after one or two exchanges?

What if I hadn’t let the crappy attitude of my manager piss me off one Friday to the point that I used it as an excuse to quit my job I was starting to hate? Would I have still gotten in my car that Sunday morning and drove to Massachusetts to explore that rekindled relationship?

Would I still be a fat, over educated waitress who felt stuck and lonely in the Midwest? Would I still be in half ass-ed relationships with dudes who didn’t know what they were doing either? Would I still be answering questions about what I was doing working in jobs that didn’t require the backpack of degrees I’d had?

Would I be living in a different kind of what-if world? Where I was questioning all the positive things that I could do and change about myself and my life rather than actually doing it?

I have long been a person who doesn’t go with the flow, or follow traditions for the sake of traditions, and I gotta be honest, sometimes I wasn’t sure that was going to pay off at any point.

I’m not saying anyone should be reckless with their talents, or time or feelings but maybe just take a step back and see how things are. Not how you think they are, how they actually are and compare that to how you want them to be. They match up? Great! They don’t? Maybe gave your cage a little rattle. (Don’t let the rattle of your cage be silenced by the opinions of others, because there will be opinions!)

I was always saying that maybe something was a sign that I should (or shouldn’t) do a thing and my friends would think it was as stretch, or give me crap for believing in the “universe” … but as I’m sitting here listening to howling wind and a torrential downpour sipping my coffee and feeling pretty good, I don’t feel like it was a stretch at all. I can’t help but think that old sad, confused, seemingly directionless fat me would have to admit, the universe did not steer me wrong!

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