Are You Feeling Lucky Today?

Two bits of “personal” news I received earlier this week had me musing about how one decision can have a huge impact on your life.  And how such a decision can sometimes be a matter of … let’s call it “luck.”

For example, why is it that after growing up in Manila I’ve spent all my life since graduating high school half the world away in Florida?  It’s because I was lucky to discover the existence of the small (1,000 students) Florida college I attended and which I suspect even today is unknown to most high school seniors.  (And this was in 1970, before the Internet and I was living thousands of miles away.) Then, I was lucky to be accepted even though my high school academic record was fairly anemic.

After college, it was logical for me to remain in Florida since I had to U.S. hometown to return to. Then, inertia kept me in the state.  After 40+ years in the U.S., I’ve lived in only three cities and 31 of those years have been where I live now.

At the time, I didn’t make a conscious decision to live in Florida, only to go to college here.  But that decision had ramifications beyond college.

What if I’d gone to college in California?  I ‘d probably be living in California, as many of my high school alumni do. I wouldn’t have met my wife.  I’d probably have a different profession.

This experience hasn’t been unique to me; a number of my Manila friends have taken the same route.  Marian came to New York City to finish high school after her father, a Dutch diplomat, was posted to the U.N.  She then went to college in New York and lives in New York City.

What if her father had been posted to a European country instead? Would she have gone to college in Europe and perhaps be living in the Netherlands, as does her brother (who is my classmate)?

These are the “what ifs” of life I normally don’t dwell on because it is unproductive.  I’m happy with the course my life took and so there’s no need to speculate on an alternate life that might have been.

When folks get bogged down in a “what if…” mindset, I like to help them focus on the present by telling them two versions of an imaginary story with the same ending.  In the first version, a young girl, whose widowed mother supports the two of them from eggs laid by a single hen they own, swerves her bicycle to avoid hitting the hen.  She crashes into a tree and is killed.  The distraught mother rushes to her daughter and wails that instead of swerving, her daughter should have hit the hen because her daughter’s life is much more important.

In version two of the story, we turn the clock back and now the daughter does not swerve but instead hits, and kills, the hen. The mother sees this, rushes to the scene and berates the daughter because how will they live with no means of income? Why didn’t the daughter swerve to avoid hitting the hen? The daughter feels so guilty about the burden she has brought upon her mother that she commits suicide.

Two different courses of action.  But the same result.  So be careful with “what if…” thinking.

What were the two bits of news that led to this post? First, I learned that the twenty-something daughter of a work acquaintance is getting married and moving from this rural area to live with her husband.  Getting married is a big life event but what I think is even bigger is where she’s moving to: London, England. Wow-wow-wowee! You can imagine what a huge impact living in London will have on how her life develops.

The second bit of news is that a friend’s son graduates in a few weeks from Cornell veterinary school. He’d been interviewing for jobs in some Florida cities and also in New York City, (Cornell is in New York state) where he was negotiating an offer.

But a local vet passed his name on to a colleague and that vet made my friend’s son an offer he couldn’t refuse.  There’s a six digit compensation package but there’s a big move…to Las Vegas. Wow-wow-wowee!

And this is not just any veterinary practice.  The owner has 15 offices throughout Vegas and one of them is exclusively for all the big animals at the casinos and shows.

I can’t begin to imagine living in Vegas on a six digit compensation package and being a twenty-something single.  But I don’t need to…I’m sure his mother will keep me up to date on his Vegas lifestyle!

Each of us can look back at a decision (or maybe more) which significantly affected our lives.  In some cases, the decision’s significance was understood.  In others, it may not have been.

Of course, when we like the results of the decision, we take credit for it.  When we don’t like the results, we blame it on “bad luck.”  But whether good or bad, to some extent it’s often all about luck.  It’s just a question of whether we’re willing to admit the large role luck plays in our lives.

I admit it…

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2 responses to “Are You Feeling Lucky Today?

  1. Waxing existential are we? My personal belief is that we all make choices that dictate direction and sphere of influence. I have made a few choices in life that demonstrably changed my life direction and the lives of others as well.

    Some might not like those choices, some might dispute that I made a conscious choice, but I can recall exact moments in time when I made them and realized I had begun “a road less traveled.”

    So I believe there is luck along the way but luck influenced by choice.

    • While I’ve had a number of world views, mostly in my youth, for the most part I’ve been in the Existentialist camp. I agree with your comment about luck and choice.

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