While stacking chairs after an assembly today with a student, we got to talking about his college choices. He gave me the list of schools and his plans to visit soon in order to make a decision. After getting through his ranking of the schools, he expressed how anxious he was about the decision. When I asked why he was anxious, he said that he didn’t want to make the wrong choice. After which he said, “everything happens for a reason.” This is a phrase that I’ve heard many times over the years and possibly used once or twice. In this instance, I thought it was important that this young man understand something. Sure! Everything happens for a reason but the reason comes after the fact.
People are amazing creatures and one of our best superpowers is the ability to build a narrative around our lives. No matter which school this student chooses, he cannot go back and redo that choice. Even if he transfers to one of the other schools after his first year, it will not be the same experience that he would have had going there as a freshman. So as we (and he) move forward in life, we connect the dots of our lives after things have happened to us. We can only guess about how the dots will unfold in front of us. Even when we choose the most tried and true path, life tends to throw a few roadblocks in our way. AND THAT’S OK!
In 1998 I went to the World Cup with my best friend. We went to 5 matches, visited the Louvre, saw La Sagrada Familia, drank beer at the famous Hof Brau Haus and toured London for 3 days. When I talk about that trip, do I talk about seeing France beat Paraguay in a penalty shootout? Nope! I talk about my friend getting his passport stolen, having to file a police report in Barcelona in Spanish and traveling across the border into France with him not having a passport. These unexpected twists and turns give texture to life that we cannot put a value on before they happen. It is afterward that we get to make up the reason.
I chose to go to Salisbury State University for a lot of good reasons and a few bad reasons. One of the bad reasons was that my girlfriend at the time liked the school and could see herself going there. We broke up a few months later and luckily she didn’t go to SSU. Out of my stupidity though, I found my best friend and fell in love with that place for so many reasons that I could not have predicted.
So whether you’re 18 and about to choose a college to attend or in your 50 deciding on switching careers, remember that everything happens for a reason…. but you’re going to make up the reason after the fact anyway. Do the best that you can with the information that you have because no matter what happens, you’re collecting dots that you’ll put together later!
Go get those dots!