Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ripple effect – how one small action you take, or don’t take, subsequently leads to other events in your life. That’s basically what life is about, isn’t it? A series of actions/inactions leading up to a bigger picture. And to me, it’s crazy how one mundane, meaningless, random action you might take can lead to something monumental later on in life.
Take my cousin as an example. She graduated from Cornell and then spent several months looking for a job. One night, she went out to a bar with her friends to de-stress, and, at some point, she made the decision to step outside for a cigarette break. While she was smoking, another man asked her for a lighter or something (the details are a bit hazy), and they ended up talking. Eventually, he asked her what she does and she informed him she was looking for a job. Normally, strangers would just say “oh, best of luck with that” and offer advice before moving on. But, nah. He gave her his email and told her to send him her resume, which she promptly did. Turns out he was working at the United Nations, and now, almost 15 years later, my cousin travels all over the world for her job at the UN.
What if she hadn’t made that small decision to go outside for a smoke break? She wouldn’t have ever met this man, and I can’t even imagine what her life would be like right now. Maybe she wouldn’t have traveled as much and thus would’ve had an easier time finding a good husband for herself. Maybe she’d spend more time at home and keep my aunt company (not that she’s lonely or anything)?
As for myself, I applied to several high schools in 8th grade. My teachers said not to bother applying to Milton Academy – not because they didn’t believe in me, but because my middle school was small and no one had even thought about applying to Milton before. When my mom and I were filling out my applications, I suddenly blurted out “Let’s just do it anyway. Who knows.” To everyone’s surprise, I got in with a big scholarship. And because Milton focused heavily on English and grammar, I further developed a love for writing and editing which subsequently led to me now desiring to be a copyeditor.
If I hadn’t whimsically suggested applying anyway, where would I have gone for high school instead? What sort of long term friends would I have now? What career path would I have wanted to take? Would I be a different person too? Maybe I would have continued pursuing paleontology as a career in some way or fallen in love with a whole other career choice. Maybe my epilepsy would have remained dormant for a few more years and not been triggered by high workload stress during sophomore year of high school.
I’ve spent nearly all my life in school now with years of the same routine and constantly going with the motions. Now that I’m looking for jobs, life seems so open ended for me and it honestly freaks me out a bit knowing that I will unknowingly make or not make an action that’s going to snowball (in a positive way) and shape the rest of my life. And I won’t ever know what that beginning snowball action/inaction will be until years later when I look back. I know there isn’t one best road for me since each possible road will have its own ups and downs. But it still worries me that I may unknowingly choose a road that won’t be optimal for my tastes and preferences.
I also know that I have no control over this sort of thing, but that’s exactly what makes it even scarier. As I’ve mentioned so many times, I’m a planner. I naturally need and want to know what’s going to happen for preparation’s sake, so I admit that not knowing is a bit scary. I suppose that’s something I need to work on mentally and emotionally: accepting the unknown.
And I also suppose that at this point, people can interject with ideas of fate – that the choices you make and roads you travel are or aren’t meant to be. Given that I’m worried as hell right now about this kind of stuff, I think it’s safe to say I’m not the biggest believer in fate.
When I discussed it with my mom, she, being a Tibetan Buddhist, talked about karma/luck (the Tibetan word she used is kind of a mix of karma and luck) and said that there are so many people who will work hard and do every right thing for themselves, and they’ll still end up somewhere they didn’t expect, be it for the better or worse. And then there are people who maybe don’t try AS hard, but are always in the right place at the right time. So you can try your best in life, but in the end karma/luck will have a role to play and there’s not much you can do about it.
It made me feel a LITTLE better. But right now this idea is all I can think about still. I’m not freaking out about it too much, but it’s definitely a concept that’s just been lingering in the back of my head. One day, I’ll look back on this post and think about where I am at the moment. Will I be happy with the choices I’ve made?