You ever have that experience where you are going about life, seemingly minding your own business and something suddenly stops you in your tracks; that moment when you have to look around and ask yourself, “What the heck? How did I get here?” Now, I am not talking about blacking out or waking up in a strange place after a night of unfettered debauchery. No, rather I am referring to those odd moments of lucidity that force you to pause, look around at your life, and marvel at the unlikely reality of your situation. Really, in my experience this is just an occasion – unbidden mind you – to consider the mysteries of life.
Sometimes, in my experience, said event is just a momentary flash of wonder and insight… something along the lines of skiing alone on one of the local trails and coming across a moose, feeding just feet away. We each pause, look at and consider each other for a moment to make sure there is nothing devious about to happen, and then go about our own business. Sure this is just a factor of where and how I live, but for me the marvel is in cross-referencing such an event with the reality that I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and in then coming to the realization that it is really fantastic that I was at that spot in that moment and was able to simply pause and briefly connect with the moose. What a thing you know?
Other times, in my experience, said event is more along the lines of what is suggested in the title reference. There you are going about life, minding your own business and something knocks you upside the head initiating a whole new series of events… something along the lines of taking a university course on a whim, discovering that the professor is an actual archaeologist and that yes people do actually get paid to do that, then rushing home, changing your major that night and “suddenly” …BAZINGA…a whole new, wholly unexpected direction for life. In the words of The Helping Friendly Book, the trick is to surrender to the flow.
I think it is truly, vitally important to be open to these sort of events. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about some sort of cosmic, mystical alignment or anything, but rather the ability to accept and appreciate such moments of self-awareness. Sometimes that is all it is, just a chance to become more aware of your surroundings and your situation within both your environment and the reality of life around you. Other times it is something a bit more complex. Other times this self-awareness is vital to being able to identify, evaluate, and interact with change and opportunity.
Certainly I accept that on the one hand we can make our own way in the world… to a certain degree. This is a tricky issue to deal with in many ways because one must consider the preposterous variation in realities across the world. Opportunities presented to me are not going to reflect in anyway the reality of existence of a teenage girl in war torn Afghanistan, an aging casteless laborer in India, or the son of a British Duke. But then, that is not really my point. What is my point you ask? There is no point really. I am just trying to share my own experience.
I have not gone through life following any sort of grand plan. I grew up fascinated by books on the life and times of ancient Mayans and Egyptians. I grew up marveling at the fantastic museums of Chicago… history, art, and science. Then, Raiders of the Lost Ark was released. You bet your britches I wanted to grow up to be an archaeologist. Made sure to get me a hat and a bull whip ASAP and started burying stuff in the backyard so that my friend and I could dig it up later in order to marvel at our grand discoveries… far from planning a route through life though. Nope I was more of a dreamer, a loafer, a mild-mannered goof-off. Went through life after high-school as a sort of modern-day roustabout… a jack-of-all-trades, working at whatever kept me going.
In that time I had a lot of the former types of self-realization. “What the deuce am I doing at the Arctic Circle?”, “How in the blazes did I end up in Cape Town?”, “Sturgis… really!?” I swear I stumbled into most of these things. Sure there was some last minute planning that led up to the actual events, but in writing this and thinking about the two different types of self-awareness I have been discussing here, I realize that at times the two types are intrinsically related. Take the second event just mentioned for example; I certainly never planned to go to Cape Town, South Africa. Period. That said, there I was working at the Roadhouse in Talkeetna and the owner let us know that we had to close for the winter because there was not enough business. POW, knocked upside the head. OK, so off I go to Death Valley, I still had some contacts there and there happened to be work… turns out there was a lot of work and so I made good money. My sister had found her way to New Zealand and I thought to take advantage of that… one thing led to another and “suddenly” there I am staring up at Table Mountain and pondering the fact that all of Africa lay beyond it. Yes, the river knows.
So then here I am in the ‘banks, freezing my arse off because it is -45 degrees, driving to work at a rip-roaring 25 miles per hour because my tires are all square and if I drove any faster I would get bounced out of the driver’s seat. I know how I got here… a slow steady descent into madness. Ha Ha, no really, even this gives me pause… what an odd reality to consider. It is not the sort of thing one sets out to do, but it is a part of life around here. An odd life it can be to be sure and there is no doubt that if one goes about living in such a place as this with eyes and mind wide open there is no end to the situations one might pause to marvel at.
So there is that, and then there is this other reality that I am marveling at… a new life, a new dream, a new right turn. Life is changing and I couldn’t be more happy about it. That said, when big changes are on the horizon facing them is a bit like getting up and dusting yourself off after being decked by a trained orangutan.