Isn’t it so weird how timing essentially determines everything?
I mean, think about it. Think about the last time that you left your house for work, and all the things you did leading up to leaving. You made coffee, went to the bathroom, brushed your teeth. Now imagine that you had skipped your morning coffee. You left six minutes earlier, and got in a car accident, because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time (and having that one cup of coffee would’ve spared you).
It’s so intriguing to consider the infinite moving pieces of life—and not just your life, everyone’s lives. Billions of lives. Billions of cups of coffee and morning commutes. Whenever tragedy strikes, it’s so tempting to think about all the things that could’ve changed the outcome. All the tiny minutia of daily life that could’ve made a world of difference.
I know that’s an incredibly morbid example, but it’s equally thought provoking to consider the less dramatic scenarios. I’m not even just talking about the “meet your soul mate in Starbucks” example (or Sonic, if you’re me) where you just happen to cross paths with that one special person because of some unpredictable, unstable circumstance, then boom, your lives intertwine forever.
I know that happens, but I’m talking about the timing of two lives that have already been interconnected. Relationships are so fragile! Two people going through a hard time simultaneously can experience a friendship implosion.
It’s tempting to consider how different the outcome could’ve been if one of the situations had happened only a few months later. Those two could’ve potentially stayed friends for the rest of their lives (or maybe they weren’t the best friends for one another anyway, and they would’ve fallen apart for some other reason sometime down the road regardless).
Or consider this: there are two people who are admittedly perfect for one another, but can never seem to get it right. If you know anybody like that, I’m sure you know how frustrating it can be. If they’d met 10 years later than they did in reality, they would’ve walked down the aisle. But instead, they take turns being in love and chasing one another at the wrong times, never to be together.
Is this just a complete fluke of the cosmos that a perfect match crossed paths too soon (or too late)? Or does it mean they weren’t “meant” to be? Is there such thing as “meant” to be, anyway?
Like I said, timing is EVERYTHING.
I know what some of you are thinking: “Things work out the way they’re supposed to!” “Everything happens for a reason!” “(Insert other comforting aphorism here)!”
But… What if it doesn’t? What if coincidence and the quality of your luck really do determine what direction your life takes?
To be clear, I really, really hope that’s not true.
It’s enough to make anybody panicky. There’s this weird movie I saw a few weeks ago, Mr. Nobody. The basic plot premise is this: this kid’s parents get divorced, and he has the choice to go with his mother or father. He’s stuck at a train station having to make a split-second decision, and the rest of the movie flashes through all the alternate versions of his life that depend entirely on which one he picks.
The movie switches from version to version to show how each tiny decision will alter the entire path. The course of his life changes completely, at points, due to his utterance of one sentence or his decision to ride his motorcycle.
As humans, I think we love to believe that no matter what we do or how many mistakes we make, we'll always be funneled via fate back to our "perfect path." But it’s possible (and plausible, really) that our choices really do make or break us. And, even freakier, maybe a lot of it isn’t even up to us!
I think we humans assign meaning to things to make them easier to accept. It’s like looking for a silver lining so we feel like the cloud is there for a reason (when, in reality, the cloud is only there because it’s that time in the metaphoric water cycle).
I contemplate this whenever I can’t understand why something just won’t work out when I feel like it should, or when I want something to happen so badly, but it just won’t—I always find myself coming back to what seems to be a pretty ultimate truth: that the timing of your life really matters.
I was watching How I Met Your Mother today (as I do every day), trying to get my mind out of the whirlwind that is existentialism. But as life would have it, I clicked “Play” on the current episode. What was the opening line?
(Ted’s voice): “Kids, if there’s one big theme to this story, it’s timing. Timing is everything.”
Really? Are you kidding me?
*Slams laptop shut.* Talk about perfect timing.
Ted’s version of life’s timing is uplifting, on the surface: he believes that every single thing that happened to him was all part of a grander plan to meet his wife. He, to some extent, thinks he was just following a predetermined path.
But (SPOILER ALERT), he still ends up with Robin! After all those years (nine seasons of excruciating suspense, explanations and “fate”), he still ends up with the first girl he fell in love with and could never really shake.
After further contemplation and conversation with my best pal Erin, we came to a conclusion. Kind of.
After you factor in for the cyclical free will vs. God’s will debate, the only thing you can really say with certainty is this: a lot of life is completely about chance. But if you knew what the result would be of your every move, you’d waste your whole life plotting, manipulating and planning which outcome you’d prefer.
Theoretically speaking, you’d have to consider every single consequence (of every single consequence) every time you were faced with a decision, because each choice has a massive ripple effect.
I think that was supposed to be the point of the Mr. Nobody movie—it took, like, three hours just to make the decision whether he should go live with mom or dad. He had to consider his entire life to make one choice!
When you take the ‘chance’ out of life, you’re really taking the ‘life’ out of life.
I think our gut instinct is about the closest thing we have to determine what we’re “supposed” to do. Mine has never really led me too far astray. I think, deep down, we know what we want, and maybe all we can really do is go after it.
It’s possible that your gut feeling about something or someone will change, and then you’ve got to cut your losses and adapt. How many times have you heard someone say, “Deep down, I always knew…” about someone or something after it went wrong? I know I’m guilty of ignoring my own instincts in favor of the less challenging option.
Are we doomed to be victims or circumstance? I’d like to think not. I’d like to think that having the courage to actually pursue the people and plans that we really want is enough, within reason, to get us where we “need” to be.
The fine print: