Remember those books back in elementary school…the ones where you read a few pages and then you had to pick your fate? You know the ones…
“Alan was walking through the forest when he came across a fork in the road. Down one road, it was dark with scary trees. The other road was lined with tulips and birds chirped merrily in the foliage. Which road should Alan take? If you choose the scary road…go to page 23. If you choose the not so scary road, proceed to page 25.”
So of course you put your finger where that page was then went to check out pages 23 & 25…right? But if you WEREN’T like me, you chose Alan’s fate and picked one or the other and continued reading until Alan suddenly fell off a cliff or something then you had to start all over again. If you are like me, your life is very much like that. Well…not the falling off the cliff part (or, at least, I hope not!), but your life has been a series of moments, some of them bigger than others, but these moments have defined who you are at this point.
The reason I bring this up is for 2 reasons actually. The first was a magazine article I read in this month’s edition of “Psychology Today.” Yeah yeah…I know what you’re thinking to yourself…and yes…I DO read “Psychology Today.” Anyway, in it they interviewed Chuck Klosterman. Haven’t heard of him? Well…me neither. But apparently he’s written a few popular books. One was “Fargo Rock City,” which is about glam metal and the other is “Killing Yourself To Live,” which I assume is probably the more interesting book. Anyway, in this article reporter Katherine Schreiber asked Klosterman this question…”What’s one life lesson your success has taught you?” His response was this…
“That the biggest factor in anyone’s life is chance. Nobody likes to admit that, because they want to believe they were smart or talented enough, or they busted their ass to get where they are. But chance is the biggest thing, and once you accept that, life seems scary.”
The reason this response drew me in is because my life has TOTALLY been like that. Have I busted my ass? Sure. A lot of people have. Do I think I’m talented enough? Sure…I guess as far as talent goes for what I’m doing with my career (typing and watching sports isn’t so difficult). Do I think I’m smart? Well…I’ve been struggling with some of my son’s 4th grade homework assignments so I dunno if I’d go THAT far. But kidding aside, think about how many times you’ve come to a fork in the road and you had to make a decision and whichever way you went, it now defines who you are. Down one path, a cliff. Down the other, the perfect ending to your story. Whether it was a job or a romance or a money decision or just about anything…EVERYONE at some point has to make a decision. And it is totally and completely by chance, in many cases, that you get to where you are now.
For example, I had a work-related life defining moment that I would say has played out in my favor back in 1992. I had graduated college and was faced with looking for a full time job. My goal in my early life was to work in radio and I did. I was working part-time at a few radio stations, filling in wherever I could, trying to get experience. But no full-time opportunity had come my way. At the same time, I was working part-time at the local television station, directing newscasts and doing whatever was needed. So, as chance would have it, BOTH radio and television had full-time positions open up at the exact same time. I interviewed for both and was offered both. The rub was this…the television job allowed me to work part-time in radio if I accepted. For the radio job, I was told that it was all radio or nothing.
I took the television job and I’ve never looked back. Now THAT decision could have gone either way. Who knows…I could have been the next Rick Dees of radio right now, making big bucks in New York City, hanging out with Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga. Who knows? Right? But as chance would have it, I made a decision and it has worked out well for me. Did it happen overnight? No. As a matter of fact, I still have things I want to do in my career and I’m hoping someday to get the opportunity. But I can honestly say that taking a chance and choosing one over the other has worked out well in my favor. I will never know what might have happened down that other road but I’m almost certain it would have involved me interviewing Aunt May and her prize heifer at the state fair. I would have made a terrible choice going into radio. I know it and so do most of my friends who are still in that field.
The second reason I have been thinking about taking chances and dealing with fate is because the other day on the Facebook, a high school friend who is a few years younger than me posted a picture from high school of a girl I don’t remember. Apparently she passed away not to long ago. She would have been a freshman my senior year and I seriously doubt I could have picked her out in a lineup however, it occurs to me that someone who walked the same school hallways, who sat in the same classrooms I sat in, who ate at the same places in my hometown, is gone now. I didn’t know her but we shared similar memories and the fact that she is gone saddens me. It’s one small piece of a ginormous life puzzle. I don’t know how she fits into my puzzle but she does, no matter how small a piece it was. In this life I live, I have come to realize that there are lots of chances I have taken…some are good and some are bad…but thankfully I am alive to take them as they come. Every day I log on to Facebook and I see so many of the people I knew and have come to know all over again and I consider myself a very lucky man. So many of them have taken chances and for some, fate has been on their side. My cousin lost her job the other day and she is the kind of person who will be better for it. It was a crappy job and I applaud her for taking the chance and moving on with her life. A high school friend who was in a motorcycle accident last summer is alive today and doing well. I applaud him for having the strength to face every day in what I imagine was unimaginable pain and he is now recovering quickly. Another friend is having a biopsy after her mammogram test came back. She won’t get the results until next week. I applaud her for her strength and courage in such a time. And yet another high school friend is at her mother’s side at the hospital as I type this. Her mother has had cancer surgery and today has fluid in her lungs. I hope she is doing well and will recover quickly. That’s got to be one of the scariest moments in my friends life and I can only pray that she is strong in this moment.
Life is very much a game of chance. Sometimes we take the wrong path but because we chose the tougher road, we get more out of it than we would have imagined. In other cases, we take the straight & narrow path but little do we know that there is a sudden drop at the end. It’s all just a game of chance and we take it and make out of it what we can. And in some cases, using a little smarts and a little hard work, we make do with a little and we gain a lot.
To sum up this mess of a mind dump…Here’s hoping you get many chances in your life and make the best of them.
And that’s all I got…for now.