I am cleaning and gutting herring in a kitchen in Petrozavodsk, a city half an inch below the Arctic Circle and just north of Helsinki on your map. Also, at least one of my tonsils is aiming to be a tennis ball by morning. Stuck in Russia waiting for a passport, my hands covered in fish scales while my friends are drinking my share of the Guinness on a trip to Dublin, I could suspect the universe of hating me. Instead I hold on to the thought that I am exactly where I need to be.
I like to believe that my life is more than a series of random events, mixed with a handful of shots in the dark and a heap of bad decisions. I choose to believe that mistakes are epiphanies in disguise, that the characters who appear seemingly out of nowhere, the cities I wake up in and the life-changing phone calls I receive are all there to nudge me along in the right direction.
When I was horseback riding in Mongolia, the buckle on the saddle came undone and I went flying off my galloping horse. After being immobilized for two days in a ger tent and after a couple of doctor visits I was flown to balmy Hong Kong to deal with what was thought to be an aneurism or a tumor but turned out to be a kidney stone. (Feel free to insert your own conclusions about medicine in Mongolia here.) My nerves and my travel plans were shattered by the time I handed in my hospital gown. Before the accident I had pictured myself hiking the Great Wall surrounded by autumnal foliage but instead I spent my days surrounded by nurses in pressed white uniforms, making my way down sterile corridors waiting to find out what was wrong with me. Still I reasoned that the accident and all that followed were a divine detour to avoid some greater misfortune, that on the road of life, this was a fender-bender that kept me from a massive accident a mile away.
I suspect that most of reality is subjective. How we choose to see things contorts and reshapes those things to fit our vision. This is why I don’t understand why some people consistently choose to be suspicious, hurt and angry in situations where it is possible to find humor, compassion and opportunity. It’s safe to say that if you set out to prove a theory without questioning its accuracy, you’ll only find evidence to support that hypothesis and ignore the rest. So why, when there is already a suffocating amount of abuse and neglect in the world would you choose to spend your life looking for the worst in humanity when you can choose to spend your life searching for its promise?
Not surprisingly, my philosophy and I take a lot of abuse from my friends, who are impeccably sharp and witty and logical. What I call magic—they call coincidence. What I call serendipity—they call an overactive imagination. They may be right on all counts. I could just be spinning in space with other dizzy people and places, accidentally bumping into each other every now and again. I choose to not see that reality, it’s too uninspired. I like the mystery of my vision, it makes life even more fun most of the time and at least bearable in moments like these, when I am sitting in my grandpa’s apartment chopping off fish heads and sneezing into my sleeve two weeks after he died in a hospital down the street.
Last December I came within an inch of eating the contents of my carry-on after a soul-sucking experience at the Ryanair counter at Dublin airport. As I was walking to my gate, mumbling a monologue consisting entirely of profanities I caught a glimpse of an absolutely elephantine rainbow over the tarmac and stopped in my tracks. No one else walking by paid any attention to the giant swipe of color taking over the sky but to me it was a peace offering from the universe, a playful pinch to wake me from my cloud of self-pity and rage, a reminder that there is a sliver of light in every moment.