The phrase “connect the dots” can mean anything: from a game of tic-tac-toe, to running our tongues over hard pastel-colored sugar lumps on what looks like receipt paper strips, to drawing meaning from a sequences of events. All are good things, and in this instance I will not be talking about the game or the candy, but oh we know how I can go on about candy!
Looking back at our lives it is easier to connect the dots, to look at our actions, patterns and trajectory of choice and fate after some time has passed. I believe we have a few fixed dots on our path, like destiny points if you will. They are set in stone; we can get there the easy way or the hard way, that part us up to us. If you have never seen the movie Sliding Doors, they do a good job of laying out this premise of destiny points though, they don’t call them that: just points we land on in our lives no matter what choices we make, at least that was my take-away.
I believe we have some fixed points or destiny dots in our path. I was curious if I could look back and identify some of those destiny dots thus far. I was also curious about what I see as defining moments. Defining moments are events or people that change the trajectory of our lives and leave us forever changed. Generally they lead us toward those fixed points or destiny dots to get us on our path. These defining moments can be large or small but like a pinball game when I hit them I shot off in another direction. It was something I learned or did that made me fundamentally different, so different in fact that I would always see the world and myself differently again. Kind of a “genie out of the bottle thing”.
I took my journal and a giant cup of tea and started from childhood and slowly stepped forward. I have to say it might have been easier to start from today and go backward but lordy I have never done anything the easy way so why start now. I don’t think it matters which way you go but I think it is important to take a look regardless. Hindsight is 20/20, but looking at decades of what appeared to be meandering on the surface brought out patterns I had not seen before. What once appeared to be capricious was indeed a larger pattern and I saw themes emerge out of what felt like chaos. Why chaos? I have had at least six different careers over five states in 35 plus years and counting. I have three degrees in very different disciplines: communications / radio and TV production, electronics and circuit design, and counseling.
Pulling my lens back and seeing the longer story arch was fascinating, comforting and educational. I highly recommend this exercise in self-reflection. I got a deeper appreciation for my journey, my learning, my fabulous mistakes and resilience. I also got a deep appreciation for those who played their part in my life, both good and bad. It gave me comfort in seeing this pattern emerge that was unknown to me. It revealed a path that had focus when there felt like none, and meaning when I sometimes felt that I was lost and flailing. I could see I was held up with nothing but faith, intuition, and an itch to move in a certain direction regardless of what appeared on the surface to be best for me.
I had a student come up to me after class not too long ago. I had been talking about making choices on how to live and not to letting those life choices be made by inaction or other people. I had shared that, a month after receiving tenure as a school counselor I gave notice to move from NY to CA, a place that had terrible statistics for school counselors, and this was at the start of a recession. I did it none–the–less. The student found it inspiring that I followed my gut, my passion. And with patience, grace and a lot of faith, I landed in a job and a place I loved like no other. I also landed a life I would not have seen coming, ever, ever, ever… I advocate that sometimes we just have to be brave and jump. I told her I could be a cautionary tale for some in how I lived my life, but she told me it gave her license to think bigger, be braver, and trust herself more. That is always good.
So I invite you to step back and take a look at your destiny dots, things that make you think, “ah so this is what all those random acts lead me to.” Go back and look at those defining moments, the events, people and things that left you forever changed and see if they move you to or away from the fixed dots of destiny. Look at the long game. The longer learnings, where you had to be beaten over the head over and over with the same life lesson until you learned it. Those can be hard to look at, but what shines through are the grace, humility, tenaciousness and resolve we possess in the face of change, challenge and cheap candy. Go ahead and connect the dots and see where it takes you.