Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Life of a Leaf

In high school, one of my teachers observed that most people she knew were either leaves floating idly along the river of life or motorboats with speed, direction, and purpose. I used to think that was a motorboat, but I was wrong. I'm a leaf.

Tonight, my kids and I were going through some photo albums, and a realization hit me. Most of my life, so many of my favorite memories are just products of chance. Jobs that I've taken, places I've visited, people I've met... They've all been strange, random twists of fate.

I recall that I had a plan once long ago, but it was derailed, and I never bothered to make a new one. Since Baby #3 was born, I don't think I've ever been able to stick to a plan that extended later than dinnertime.

My husband -- I met him through a bizarre chance of fate. He didn't even live in the same city, but his mother and I worked at the same school. He was there to visit her, and I bumped into them in the teacher's lounge because I was changing to go running. That may sound pretty normal, but I never run. Never. Ever. Not for fires, not for shoe sales, not for anything... I was on a train in Paris once when we got a bomb threat. Sirens were blaring; the gendarme were whizzing through the cars to evacuate us. I didn't even break into a trot. What in the world possessed me to go running that day, that one day of the year that I would meet him? Any other day, I would've hopped into my car parked near my classroom and missed him altogether. As I recall, I didn't even like him at the moment, but here we are, nearly two decades later.

Those oft-quoted lines from Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" come to mind:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Most people infer that the road less traveled is the superior one, but I'm not so sure. Sometimes, I think that's just an elegant way to say "I've made a hu-u-u-u-u-ge mistake."

My father has wisely stated, "A lot of things could've been, but I don't bother thinking about them because there's no point." Sadly, I lack his placid temperament, and I often wonder what life might have been if I'd stuck to a definite plan. Easier? More focused? More profitable? For sure, I'd be doing something more productive than posting blog entries between bouts of ring-around-the-rosies.

On the other hand, if I'd been more goal-oriented, I'd have missed out on some of the best memories I have, like karaoke-singing on the Champs Elysees and "The Lebanese Detective" (that's another post maybe). Heck, two of my children were complete surprises, and I can't imagine life without them.  These memories, these people that have come in and out of my life -- a motorboat would've missed them, but they really are the details that make all the difference.


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