It’s been some week, friends. Let me tell you about it.
First, you may have seen my recent story about witnessing a horrific accident on my way to lead a writing retreat in Colorado, and the reminder that came from it about enjoying this precious life.
I had already learned that lesson the hard way, when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Watching that accident woke me up all over again.
Who would have guessed that two days after the accident was my brain tumor anniversary?
15-year anniversary as a matter of fact.
That these two life awakening and affirming events would somehow be linked.
That day I was in the Rocky Mountains coaching writers on building a meaningful career doing what they love most. I felt sensitive and emotional, on the verge of tears, and in between sessions would stare out the window and walk around the Airbnb touching the arms of friends who were among the retreatants. They would look up and smile, unaware of why I was stopping them mid-sentence at their laptops. I couldn’t explain it either but felt compelled to reach out to them all the same.
That night we all gathered in the living room to read stories, and for some reason I decided to share ones from my book, I’m scared & doing it anyway, about driving to the hospital for my first surgery and the epiphany in the ICU that changed my life forever.
It wasn’t until I was getting ready for bed, that I checked the date and saw the shocking serendipity of it all. Exactly 15 years ago I was on that drive, in that hospital bed. Could that have been why I was so sensitive? Could my body have remembered before my mind caught up?
It felt that way.
One week later serendipity struck again.
I was invited by HOBY New York East to return to a blast from my past.
Haviland Middle School in my hometown of Hyde Park, NY.
They were hosting a leadership program for ninth graders and asked me to share a few words. And as luck…fate…something would have it, the event took place in Haviland’s cafeteria. The same one where I sat as a thirteen year-old learning the hard way about mean girls, unrequited love, and nervous teen angst.
Back then I brought a brown-bagged lunch every day, too afraid to stand up and cross the room while anyone was looking. Afraid to be seen, of what someone might say. Wanting to be praised as an A-student by my teachers, while simultaneously wanting to blend in with everyone else.
What are the chances I would ever return there?
As I stood in front of them, all eyes on me, one of the first things I said was a warning to never say never, because being in that cafeteria again felt like proof of what happens when you do. Strange, funny and poignant things.
I also told them about being scared & doing it anyway. About hugging like they mean it. About how much power we’re all sitting on even in situations, like middle school, that feel out of our control. We get to choose what we think and feel about what’s happening, how we talk about it, and ultimately what we do about it.
I learned those lessons after my surgeries, and was reminded after witnessing the accident in Colorado and again while in the middle of that cafeteria….wait for it…exactly 30 years later.
I realized that anniversary on my drive to the speech, walking my way through the math. Fifteen years since my surgeries and 15 more since I was sitting with my half-eaten lunch waiting for the period to end so I could stand up without being seen.
I wondered if one of the teens I met needed to hear what I had to say, or if this was about closure for my younger self. It felt important to be there, though I’m still not sure why.
What I do know is serendipity and right timing are everywhere. Even for those who consider life pretty arbitrary, there are still moments that seem too coincidental.
What do YOU do about them?
How do YOU explain them?
I’m curious about the stories you tell yourself about these moments. How you mark mysterious milestones and fascinating happenstances. We get to choose how we think and feel about them, just as I told the students during our time together this week.
I choose celebration on anniversaries, including the ones that don’t yet make sense. Cue the cupcakes, champagne and hugs.
But first, a few dumbfounded head shakes to consider how all of this could have come to be.