Don’t use your outside voice inside. Be sure to color inside the lines. Don’t ever say the f-word. There are things instilled in our minds at a delicate age and they remain with us for the rest of our lives. I still feel uncomfortable yelling indoors (unless there’s a hockey game on, under which circumstance you will never hear me apologize.) I’d still be overcome with a wave of disappointment if my blue passed the thick black outline of a character in a coloring book. And I‘m still overcome with discomfort whenever I let that f-word slip out: fate.
Yeah, I know. Not the traditional f-word banned from childhoods and households you may have thought. And while it's not my style to sprinkle 'fuck's into my writing, I have no problem doing so and it doesn't pose any discomfort. Fate, on the other hand, is a word far heavier than any of the hundreds of thousands of words in the dictionary. It's a word that has single-handedly guided my mind into oblivion one day and given me peace of mind the next. Sometimes I'm a firm believer and sometimes the only thing I'm sure of is the eye-roll that follows in response. But whether I'm on the fence or over the moon about it, I still know for certain that I've never totally figured it out.
Until now. Maybe. Surely there is no formula or intricate equation that marries the four letters under an altar of pure, definitive, unadulterated reasoning. But we all have our theories and ever-changing opinions, and this blog wouldn't be anything if not a platform for me to share mine. So this is what I've ultimately decided:
Fate is very real, but dangerous if abused. It's vital for the pursuit of full, existential living – for those who wish to live within the seconds that link their lives, rather than counting the seconds down or thinking back to expired minutes. But it is not a justification.
That's honestly what I used to believe. For a long time. In essence, I believed that nothing was coincidence – that the happy accidents and signs spotted through the walks of my life were the world's way of telling me where I belong and whether or not I should keep going.
After my heart got broken for the first time, the songs that soundtracked my relationship would find the best and worst times to aggressively stroke my eardrums. And after the lyrics finished dancing with my sanity, I'd find a billboard ad or a new quirky titled, yet significant, drink on a cocktail menu. It never seemed to end, but that's because I wouldn't allow it to. I'd see a sign, paint it with the f-word, and convince myself that we're meant to be together, or that the universe is beckoning me to take that job, or that the date really did go well and he really is thinking about me and I really should give him a call. My basic instincts and logical reasoning rejected because, well, his name popped up in a commercial right when I was thinking about him, so I'm meant to be with him. It's obviously fate. I was so obviously wrong.
I thought this way for a long time, and I honestly can't sit here and say my mind will never go back to this mindset because happy coincidences often do get promoted to "unbelievable" and "crazy" coincidences. But one day, I was overcome by an indescribable, tear-inducing emotion after listening to Kodaline's "All I Want" and about a month later, I heard it again soundtracking a video clip of New York Rangers center Dominic Moore. I then went on to convince myself that I'm actually meant to be with Dominic Moore, you know, someday, because the universe sang it to me through Steve Garrigan's voice.
It was this same day I realized that perhaps my philosophies were flawed.
Interestingly enough, it was that same song that brought me to my current conclusion – one that strips a little weight off of the f-word and allows it to be pronounced with a subtle sound of sanity (and not echoed by a woman who picked out a husband by tuning into ESPN at the right time.)
I thought about all the things I brought myself to believe through the guidance of these "signs" in my life. I thought about why I've been seeing my crush's name ~ e v e r y w h e r e ~ I looked, in the places and programs where his name never would've appeared pre-infatuation. I thought about why I unintentionally wound up in the same bar franchise in three different countries in a four week time-span. I thought long and hard about it. And finally, I realized:
It's just a really well-established bar franchise.
Fate is very real in that, yes, coincidences and "get the fuck out of here" moments do exist, but not because your desires are meant to be, but because you are. I didn't wind up at that bar because there's a storyline the universe is withholding from me. I wound up there to take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate my whereabouts and make the connection. I don't remember many of the bars I wander into, but I remembered the name and experiences in those three – and that in itself brings me closer to the moments.
I don't see his name everywhere because the universe is telling me he's thinking about me. But I never would've acknowledged the co-producer of that movie, the chef at that restaurant, or that one guy in the Taco Bell commercial, if they all didn't share the same name as the man I find myself so often thinking about. And it makes you wonder – how many producers, chefs and actors are you unfamiliar with, whose names roll in the credits you don't catch, whose hard work is of no consequence or significance to you. Many. Because while you're living your life, life is also happening for seven billion other people in the world. Recognizing a name or a song or a movie shouldn't mean life will work in accordance to your beliefs – it should instead open your eyes to get a glimpse of the lives being lived alongside yours. It should give you the opportunity to adopt new perspectives, and not leave you stuck in the quicksands of your own ideas that you obsessively abused and left stripped of any legitimate meaning.
The f-word and my understanding of it so often left me trapped in my own head in that way. Thinking about it in this new light brings me a comfort that only breaking free from the confines of your own mind can bring. Taking these crazy coincidences and ascribing them to the wonders of the universe is still something I can do. But instead of justifying what has been born from my own hopes, fears and insecurities – instead of defending that which probably isn't – I get to notice, catch and appreciate the small specks and pieces of the seven billion lives as they slip through the crevices of mine.