I believe in possibilities. Serendipity, happenstance, imagination are the abundant raw materials of happiness. Optimism is helpful, but appreciating possibilities is more dependent on perception and nourishment—than on luck.
What is the probability that destitution would lead to true love and insomnia to rebirth? What about the possibility? How likely is it that a high school drop-out would make a life for herself in a bookstore? Can eviction lead—not once, but twice—to good fortune? The story of my life is full of improbabilities that proved possible.
In my early twenties I washed ashore in Sacramento, CA, a city I had never thought about before my bus stopped there. My partner and I were down to our last 25 cents and still had a hundred miles to go to reach the town where we hoped my brother still lived. We returned to Sacramento a month later with no money, no jobs, no prospects. I suffered from migraines, depression and panic attacks. The probability was that Sacramento would defeat me. But I looked for the possibilities. And I found my true love and a doctor who actually helped me.
Sleep has never come easily to me and for a few years in Sacramento, I barely slept at all. That proved to be serendipitous. 4AM one morning I was watching television through bleary eyes. An info-mercial came on for the Culinary Institute of America. 3,000 miles from Sacramento! My true love, Jeff, wanted to be a cook. We both wanted to get out of Sacramento. But first, our eviction: thrown out of one apartment, we rented another on the other side of town. A pottery studio, three blocks away, helped me reclaim my life.
John Barth wrote, “you don’t reach Serendi[pity] by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for elsewhere and lose your bearings . . .” Jeff and I packed a U-Haul with my potter’s wheel, his guitar, and the world’s meanest cat and set off, in good faith, for The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. Thirty years of possibilities later Jeff cooks for mostly appreciative oldsters at a retirement home and plays jazz guitar in local coffeehouses. I write and handbind fairytales for grownups and spend my days doing all the things that need doing to keep an independent bookstore going. We look forward, together, to discovering what possibilities the next thirty years will bring.
You cannot seek out serendipity, it’s true, but, this I believe, if you keep your eyes, your mind, and your heart open, even the most improbable things are possible.
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