I control my own destiny
Almost a decade ago, I was sitting inside my parents’ kitchen when it started to snow. Snow is not unusual for New England. But the timing was: it was late October, and the leaves had not yet fallen from the trees.
I thought to myself, “I need to make dinner. The power’s going to go out.”
I was able to make a pasta dish before the house went dark. The heavy snow weighed down branches until they snapped, knocking out power lines all over the state. We ended up losing power for a week. The house grew chilly, and my flashlight died after two nights.
My younger brothers cried every day for two reasons: 1) The Internet was out, and 2) Halloween had been canceled. Kids couldn’t go trick-or-treating with downed powerlines everywhere, I guess. And having candy just wasn’t the same.
My nerves were shot. And after that, two things in my life changed.
First, I always kept plenty of LED-powered flashlights around.
Second, I dropped out of college.
Naturally, when I tried to drive to class with entire roads blocked off by fallen branches, I got anxious. I was overwhelmed. I was not at the point where I could explain my anxiety to the professors, or to the dean. I just told them I was quitting, and I did.
In my mind, the storm was some sort of omen, a warning that I couldn’t finish school. It was an obstacle I couldn’t overcome.
I did end up going back, and finished. I met a lot of interesting classmates I otherwise wouldn’t have known. But had I pushed through, with what I now know or the treatment I’ve had for anxiety, I could’ve made it through sooner.
A similar event happened recently, when a natural disaster damaged the business where I was doing my internship. They had to close. It was a very specific industry, and things were grim. It was looking like I’d have to withdraw the semester. Game over.
It couldn’t have come at a worse time: I was already behind on my hours, and dealing with a car accident and an overbearing job. Besides, I hadn’t really “clicked” with anything this semester. Nothing I was studying was what I wanted to do.
I joked, “What if this is an omen that I’m not supposed to work in this field?”
But this time, I was done with omens.
Someone said to me, “I’m surprised that you haven’t said that you’ll quit.”
But I wasn’t surprised. This time, I had resolved to keep going. Maybe I could still finish. Maybe I would have to take an incomplete for the semester. But either way, I was going to do everything I could to push through. I was going to stay in the race, even if I couldn’t pass the finish line.
There’s no outside force controlling my life. Sometimes branches fall and buildings catch fire; it affects thousands of people, not just me. Life is a maze, and sometimes we have to stop and turn around.
I think of my car; the person who sold it to me said that he normally picked up his daughter from school every day, but one day, she was staying late with a class project. A tornado swept through; as the kids hid in the basement (and were all okay), trees came down in the parking lot — one right where he usually parked. An hour made the difference between the car being totaled, and being fine.
I think about the car accident: one second later or earlier, and I could’ve avoided it. How many other accidents or injuries have I unknowingly avoided, by making one turn instead of another, by going left instead of right? And all by chance.
There’s no omens or signs trying to lead me a certain way. It’s just me, trying to find my path the only way I know how: moving forward, in any direction.