Do You Believe in Fate? (Or Why Taking a Chance is Worth It)

I believe in fate. But I also believe in free will. A philosophy that my father recently told me completely contradicts itself, but hear me out.

Like everyone else on the planet, I have faced my fair share of struggles. Deaths, heartbreaks, mental illness. Bad days, bad months, bad years, but I’ve also been incredibly lucky. I have an incredible life.

The best family I could ask for, amazing friends, a wonderful boyfriend, a roof over my head, an education, and a job. Well, if I’m being honest, four jobs, which sadly isn’t that abnormal nowadays. Anything it takes to make ends meet, right? And with the elusive full-time nine to five with pension and benefits so out of reach, we do it however we can.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Do you ever have moments that feel too connected to just be coincidence? Or find yourself thinking of one thing from years ago, one tiny decision that spiraled and spider webbed and exploded into a hundred other decisions and events that completely changed the course of your life? I have. Some good, some bad. Some somewhere in between.

For example, when I first started University nine years ago, on my first night in my new dorm room, I didn’t know anybody. So I wandered through the crowded cafeteria, tray of mediocre food in hand looking for a place to sit.

I was drawn to a certain chair at a certain empty table. Don’t ask me why. And I sat there. Soon afterwards, someone else joined me. I found out months later it was for no other reason than I’d sat in her chair. The one she had been sitting at for the last several days.

We became best friends. When my father bought a house to rent to tenants, we decided to rent it out together. When she got a cat, I got one to keep it company. When we drifted apart, fairly abruptly, friends she’d introduced me to became my new best friends.

My cat got me through a bout of depression when we were living alone together in that house. But that house and that cat became my home, my life now that I couldn’t imagine any other way.

Our lives are full of these moments. Like during that bout of depression, when she moved out I made a snap decision to go back to school. To apply for college. What program? I really didn’t care, I just needed to get out of the rut of heartbreak and working a dead-end job I hated.

That snap decision lead me to the love of my life, and I am now teaching a class from the program that I took there. Ask me 5 years ago if I would have imagined myself in this life and I would have looked at you like you were insane.

I guess my point is, we all feel hopeless sometimes. Stuck in dead end jobs, dead end relationships, deafening depression or anxiety that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning. I’m not saying my life is perfect. Far from it. I still have my struggles.

But time and time again I am faced with these moments, and sometimes I realize the significance of them. Should I audition for this show? What can I lose? I could gain great experiences and many new friends, which is always the case in theatre. Or I could just go home right after work and not take the risk.

What I have learned in the last ten years, something that I try to remind myself every time I don’t want to get out of bed, is that I am so grateful for those “what if” moments. I look back and think “What if I had never sat in that chair in the cafeteria?” “What if I hadn’t made the snap decision to go back to school?” “What if I hadn’t auditioned for that play?”

Those what ifs are so much more terrifying and tangible than the alternatives. “What if I had auditioned for that play? I wonder what would be different?”

It’s fun to wonder, but we will never truly know what we’ve lost or what we’ve missed out on, and that, to me, is absolutely terrifying. What if I had acted on all of my “What if” moments? How much more incredible would my life be now?

I’ve tried to make a promise to myself and it’s something I want to pass on. I promise to never have the “What if I did?” moments, and to always be able to look back on the “Thank god I did, what if I didn’t?” moments. Even since I’ve started, my life seems so much fuller. Far fewer missed opportunities. So many more experiences and stories to tell.

So circling back to the fact that I am insane and have 4 jobs, one of them is quite recent. To put it into perspective, one is that I teach at the college one day a week, which I love. One is mostly working from home which I also love. My third, a serving job, is great too, but recently my hours got cut due to the slow season. So rather than wallowing in self-pity, I decided to do something about it.

The day I found out my shifts were getting cut (from 4-5 per week to 1-2) I let myself feel it for a couple of hours. I won’t lie, I was upset. But then I pulled up my socks and applied for several jobs online. At 10:30 p.m. on a Friday night.

9 a.m. Saturday I got an email about a 1 p.m. interview, and by 1:15 p.m. I had a new full time serving job.

Life is crazy. And I don’t ignore the fact that I am incredibly lucky. But it’s times like that where I can’t ignore my belief that fate plays a role in my day-to-day life. And now, instead of working minimal hours and just scraping by, wondering what would have happened if I’d been more proactive, I have a new job I love, and the worst thing I wonder is what would have happened if I wasn’t.

So apply for that job, audition for that play, write that novel, learn to play that instrument, travel to Europe, go to the gym. Because at the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather be thankful you did instead of wishing you had? Your life is in your hands, and if you accept that and give it a little push sometimes, fate has some incredible things in store for you.

It’s like they say in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – and yes, I am outing myself as a nerd viewer of obscure television shows – I am a leaf in the stream of creation. But I think that not only are we the leaf, but we’re the stream too.