Fate and Luck and Circumstance


“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us…”
Joseph Campbell

Swimming in the sea on a Wednesday afternoon is a luxury almost too rich to bear. Staring out at the oil platforms while the low winter sun dapples the waves, I feel pampered…spoiled in a way that I have perhaps not entirely earned. I struggle to reconcile the gift of a loafing, wading, sunny afternoon with the shadow of guilt gently tugging at my elbow.

You should be working.

Funny thing about those oil platforms. They are a necessary eyesore. The price we pay to live this extravagant life of warm November beaches and idle hours in the middle of the work week. But at night, those platforms sparkle at the edge of the horizon, adding depth to that dark Pacific, marking a boundary between civilization and the wilds of the Channel Islands and the open sea.

I’ve been thinking a lot about earned circumstances and what the book jacket of the latest novel I’m reading (Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch) calls “the machinations of fate.” While I feel as though my current situation was all but unavoidable, I wonder if it was preordained. I feel like I’m taking a sudden holiday in the middle of my life, and though none of the buoys and safety nets propping me up are charity – every strap and carabiner earned through paychecks and what felt like endless hours of swallowing opinions and eating shit so as to avoid “rocking the boat –  it’s hard to completely let my guard down. Those platforms may be marking the border of the deep sea, but who knows what gods and monsters are hiding below the surface, ready to lay waste to my well laid plans.

The quote at the beginning of this piece was once stenciled on a cheery yellow wall by an old roommate in an optimistic mood. While our mutual friends were buying homes and starting families, we were still struggling with tiny paychecks and disappointing love-lives. We agreed to be roomies to save cash, but in order to remind ourselves that this was just a temporary way-station on the way to our “real lives,” we stenciled Campbell’s words on the main wall in our living room. It was our talisman.

And now this former roommate and old friend is living halfway ’round the world. Having decided to seize the reins of her destiny, she skipped town and headed east. First to Africa and now further still…all the way to Indonesia. Meanwhile, I find myself sitting here, as the tide slinks in, wondering about fate and luck and circumstance

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