Our lives don’t follow straight paths. We’re more like messages in bottles, bobbing along with the current, bouncing off rocks and getting thrown in new directions. Except it’s not as fatalistic as all that — we do have some control over the bobbing. We can look around and see a direction that looks pretty good and head that way. At those times, we control the path, but we still don’t control the destination. For that, we’d need to be able to climb into a helicopter and scope out where that direction actually takes us and decide before the journey if that’s really where we wanted to end up. And, we’d need something to clear the way to make sure we didn’t hit something that bounced us back or sideways or around. And if have the helicopter, then why the hell would we go back to bobbing anyway? But we don’t. Have the helicopter that is.
So, sometimes, our lives change because something we could never have expected, some chance thing that maybe didn’t even seem that important at the time. And sometimes we see our lives changing before us, and we know that the decision is a fork in the road. But even then we don’t know exactly where it will lead us.
So, is life an adventure or a gamble? Something new around every corner or a nail-biting spin of the roulette wheel? Yeah, I know. It’s both.
I weigh my decisions so carefully. What will happen if I choose this? And what about that? And I agonize and try to imagine the outcome and factor in the variables and it’s exhausting. And you just never know. And as much as I agonize over the big stuff, at any time, something small can come right around the corner and change everything.
If I didn’t get laid off way back when, I wouldn’t have looked for another job and I wouldn’t have met P. and I wouldn’t have him in my life now. And I can’t imagine my life without him. But meeting him was not something I could have planned even though he is the most important thing in my life.
How’s that for making the right decisions for a happy life?
And what about my career? I became a technical writer because all I wanted to do with my life was write and the only major I ever considered was English, but then I got my degree and wanted to write and couldn’t get a job in journalism, didn’t really want a job in journalism, which is why I looked into, but didn’t stay in a Communications major or work on the school newspaper. But I was working at a hardware store and I never imagined I would have my degree and still be working there, but then I saw an opening for a technical writer at that hardware store’s corporate office and it was writing as a career! And I already knew the subject matter since I’d been working at the store all through school. And I’ve been a technical writer ever since. But I never knew the career existed. And I never would have gotten the job if I hadn’t started working at the hardware store.
Which I never would have done except that I got offered a theatre internship the summer after my freshman year. And so I had to quit my job at Mervyn’s. Which I only did because they said they’d hire me back in the fall. Because I needed that job. But when I got back after the internship, Mervyn’s said they didn’t have any openings. And so I got a job at a bagel shop. Only they wanted me to make espresso drinks but never explained how to use the machine. And the whole heating up the milk thing scared me. And I didn’t know how to brew the coffee. And I cut the bagels wrong and the boss yelled at me. So, after less than a week, I got a job at a bakery and called up the bagel shop and said I wasn’t coming in anymore. But then I hated the bakery job because no one told me what any of the baked goods were called. And so customers would come in and say they wanted six of this and eight of that and I would make them point things out behind the glass because I didn’t know what they wanted. And I had to decorate cakes so they said happy birthday to people I didn’t know how to decorate cakes and I was really bad at it and I cried every day. So after a less than a week I found the hardware job.
So, if I was better at making coffee or decorating cakes, I might not be a technical writer now. And although I didn’t end up working in the theatre, maybe that internship had more influence over the course of my life than I thought.
But despite all of that, I still agonize over every decision I can control. It’s hard for me to let go. It’s hard for me to remember that sometimes the best twists and turns in life come from not being able to decorate a cake.