I ran into my second-grade teacher yesterday. We chatted for a moment; quite pleasant. She said something that gave me pause, though: “I always knew you’d be successful.”
I suppose, all things being equal, that I’m not doing too bad. I have a roof over my head in a rather pleasant apartment complex. I have clothes to wear, food to eat, and a happy vehicle to drive. Life is good, I suppose, even though I often wonder about what might be, had I not made certain decisions in my youth.
And yet, decide I did. And although certain doors were closed to me, others were opened, and I don’t think I have paid sufficient attention to the good while I lamented the bad.
It’s humbling, though, to realize just how much of my background is dependent on sheer luck:
- The defining aspect of my undergraduate years was my involvement first in the student government at Western Michigan University (the Western Student Association), and then my time at various appointments at the Western Herald. Yet had it not been for a random call from the WSA chief of operations to join the student government leadership for a retreat (before I had even stepped foot in a classroom as a college student), I never would have participated.
- My volunteer work at church would never have happened had I not received a casual invitation from the guy who would eventually become our deacon, to join in lay liturgical service.
- Had it not been for a series of short-term temp jobs, I would not have been qualified for my current job — nor would I have thought that I could do what I’m actually doing.
- My interest in ethics, the field in which I actually earned my degree, was originally raised through casual conversation about “superenlightened egoism.”
- Without my friend Duane, I probably would not have actually done anything — except think wistfully — about my writing.
My comfort is a function of my luck; there is a great deal of truth, methinks, to the “accidental hero” version of history. Although I have capitalized in certain ways upon the luck that has befallen me, I am acutely aware that I haven’t really earned most of what I have.
I’m lucky. But at least I know it.