There are two bits of wisdom that keep coming back to me. The first is from my Dad. The second, oddly enough, is from Adrienne Clarkson.
My Dad has always told me – and it’s become a motto of sorts – that life always pushes you where you need to go; that it will take you, in spite of yourself, where you never dreamed you’d end up, but where you belong. I’ve always been very independent, so this wasn’t really my style. Life pushes me where I need to go? I make my own life, thank you very much. Recently, though, I’ve come to see just how true that statement is.
I read an article on Language Log (I’ll link to it when I find it), where the author, Roger Shuy was talking about how he got into his field – being a linguistics expert in legal proceedings. It all started when he got on a plane, and chatted with his seat mate, a lawyer. When the latter found out that Shuy was a linguist, he pulled out papers on the case he was handling, and asked for some help. He got his answers, and Shuy got a life path.
The other bit of wisdom comes from Adrienne Clarkson. She’s an interesting character. She’s a Trin alum, so I’ve had a chance to meet her/hear her speak a few times. Most of what she says tends to slip into feminist tirades fairly quickly (if I had a dime for every time she said the words “birth control”…), but one thing she said has caught my attention. She said that you should always do what’s easy; certain things just feel right when you do them, while other things, no matter how much you want them, always seem like kicking at a locked door. When you find the right door, it will unlock to let you through, even if you have to oil it a little. And that, I guess, is how life does it… by locking and unlocking just enough doors to push you to the path of least resistence to where you need to go. All of this is not to say that your own agency is irrelevant. Let go of your agency, and you go nowhere at all. Life just nudges your own actions into the right direction.
So far, this has held true for me. I tend to always try to engineer the things I want into being. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. At the end of high school, the last place I wanted to be was U of T. I had volunteered here in grade 10, and the depressed looks I saw walking down St. George scared me. It didn’t seem to be a very happy place. But, in spite of my best efforts (and there were a lot of efforts – lots of schools, lots of applications, lots of SAT’s), U of T is where I ended up. And you know what? I love it. Some of my best friends I met completely randomly – one when she stood behind me in line to register, and the rest over a night spent in the quad chatting about pretty much everything, or thanks to random seating choices in class. Professionally, as well, I’ve had opportunities here that I would never had had if I had gotten into the schools of my choice: I’ve met some amazing people, I’ve worked with some brilliant profs, and I’ve finally found the direction I’m happy with (back in high school I changed what I wanted to do what… twice a year?).
I’m an atheist. I don’t believe there’s some God, or even fate (although I’m still holding out on that one), that directs your life. I don’t know if this is some general truth or only my truth, or even that. Maybe, to borrow from Rushdie, it’s just the narrative I make up to explain my life. Maybe in a few years I’ll reread this blog post, and think I was a foolish little kid who has no idea what she’s talking about. Maybe this will continue to hold true for me, but for reasons I haven’t even thought of considering. But right now, this makes sense for me – and I think it’s pretty cool.