A few weeks ago, I published a post about a spectacular incident that I experienced almost two years ago to the day. While traveling with my school choir in Rome, Italy, I inexplicably encountered my (now ex) boyfriend’s former girlfriend (or, rather, his former female person of interest) at none other than the Trevi Fountain. It was perhaps the most incredible thing I had ever witnessed up until that point in my life, and I continuously reflect upon that experience when I need to remember the mystery of life and the amazing experiences it has in store for us, most often without any knowledge–on our ends–of what those experiences might be or how even our most seemingly inconsequential actions and decisions lead us to them.
I encourage you all to read my previous blog post, “The Trevi Fountain: Part I,” in order to get the full story, for the contents of this current post may not have quite as significant an impact without the background knowledge required to understand the mystery of the events at hand.
In December of 2015, I graduated early from my undergraduate institution and moved back home with my parents. Since that time, I have been working downtown Milwaukee, gaining experience in a law firm before I head off to law school this coming August. For any of you twenty-somethings that currently live with your parents or have lived with your parents post-college graduation/post-any period of time not living with your parents, you know how difficult of an adjustment it can be. For me, the difficulty of living at home again has been augmented by my conflicting feelings for the greater Milwaukee area, the geographic center of my life prior to college. On one hand, I love the area merely because of its familiarity. I feel like it is easy to feel this intrinsic sense of belonging due to familiarity alone, a feeling I didn’t have while attending two different undergraduate institutions, working several different jobs, and even spending an entire summer in neither my home state nor the state of my university. On the other hand, however, I feel an underlying sense of sadness and loss. It’s difficult to explain, but I think it ultimately stems from feeling the absence of all of the people that were such major parts of my life before I left for college. Friends, former boyfriends, even my own siblings, they’ve all moved away and moved on. Granted, I have moved on, too; it’s just that I haven’t moved away, I haven’t necessarily found my place yet.
Lately, I’ve become increasingly anxious about what will be happening approximately five months from now. This coming August, I will begin law school. I’m thrilled to begin the last leg of what has truly been a lifelong journey. I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, and here I am preparing for the final step. The problem, however, is that I do not yet know where I will be going to school. Now that I write it out, this all sounds pretty superfluous. Here we are living in a world where we are constantly fielding threats from ISIS, Boko Haram, climate change, poverty, racism and Donald Trump, yet here I am lamenting about what essentially boils down to having too many good options. There are too many options for law school and too many amazing academic and professional opportunities before me, there’s too much time remaining in the “best” years of my life (the twenty-something years). I recognize the privilege with which I can write about this problem, but I ask you all to bear with me for a moment. I recognize that, in the grand scheme of things, this problem is more than insignificant. To the rest of humanity, this problem means absolutely nothing. But to me, this is my life. This problem is everything.
What has been making this decision so difficult for me is that I have been fighting to divorce my personal motivations from the professional considerations I must contemplate before making such a substantial investment of time and money. Simply put, my undergraduate experience was rough. Yet, I made it through, and throughout the past year, I have finally been able to reach a place where I feel…happy. Not “happier” or “better,” but just happy. I’ve stopped considering my mental state to be a work in progress and have instead adopted this positive outlook and persistent, underlying feeling of happiness. The Dark Days are moving further and further behind me, and I’ve reached a place that, I dare say, is even better than it was before everything went to hell my freshman year of college.
And now, I have to start over again.
I have to make this major life decision that could potentially fling me right back to square one. I am staring uncertainty right in the face, and it feels different than it did when I was 18 and had to decide where to go to college. Now, I know what could happen. I know just how bad things could get, and I’m scared. Never mind the debt and the even more important consideration of what’s best for my professional prospects. I have to consider it all, and some of my feelings compete with other ones. But all I can keep thinking about is, what if I make the wrong choice? What if I make my choice for the wrong reasons? What if I leave something behind that I’m supposed to stick around for?
I could write a countless number of blog entries detailing the specifics of my conflicting feelings. But for now, I need to get to the good part.
Last week, near the end of the work day, I happened to check out my LinkedIn page. I scrolled through the homepage, glancing at updates, when I noticed that one of my connections–a mutual acquaintance of me and my ex-boyfriend–had recently connected with Claire, the girl from the Trevi Fountain. Dying of curiosity at this point, I clicked on her page, interested to see where she ended up.
I looked again.
Claire, I discovered, works in the same building as I do. The exact same building. Right here, right now. Years later, in a very different time and place, we have somehow found each other yet again.
This is recent news, and the circumstances surrounding the discovery of her employment are certainly less extraordinary than those surrounding our first encounter with each other two years ago. However, am I alone in thinking that this, too, though it looks so different, is also extraordinary? It baffles me that in this city of nearly 600,000 people, multiple suburbs, dozens of buildings and employment centers, we have both managed to end up in the same place at the same time.
I can’t help but wonder about this. I’m not sure what it means, exactly, but I do know that I needed this. I have been starting to forget that things happen for a reason, that surprises await. In the monotony of working life and a constant routine, it’s so easy to forget that each day holds the potential for something extraordinary. Just as I learned the first time I beheld Claire at the Trevi Fountain, what is perhaps the most comforting thing we can derive from experiences like these is the knowledge that we don’t even have to try in order for extraordinary things to find us.
I think we can all find some peace in knowing that despite the decisions, both large and small, that may initially appear to divert us from one path to another, we somehow always manage to stay on the right path for us. All we have to do is live, follow our instincts, our passions, our goals, and the rest seems to fall into place when it’s supposed to.