“When you want something all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” - Paulo Coelho
I finally got around to reading “The Alchemist” over Christmas. I finished it just before landing back home. Then I forgot it on the plane. Rather than be mad at myself, though, I simply took it as a sign. It seemed appropriate. Maybe someone would find it on the next flight. Who knows?
I have always been looking for signs. From an early age. Something, anything to tell me that I was different or unique. Did I have a widow’s peak? Was I double-jointed? Did I have a talent for chess or sports or anything? I imagine this is common among children. We’re born into a world that in many ways convinces us we are not special, so we desperately look for anything to prove it wrong.
I figured out I was smart early on, and I’m not too proud to say I rode that to sometimes obnoxious levels.
But even as I got older, I was still looking for signs, for something to tell me that the particular decision I was making was the “right” one. To go to this school or that. To pursue this relationship or not. Even as simple as whether I should go out to dinner or stay in.
I’ve admitted before that I’ve never been good at big decisions, but the truth is I’ve never been great at deciding in general. It’s sad to think, but there have been times when I wished I didn’t have options, when I would have preferred being forced rather than asked. At least then I could know it wasn’t my fault if it didn’t work out.
And that, I know, has been the driving force all along. Fear. It shouldn’t drive; we’ve been over that. But sometimes it does. So, we look for signs to tell us which way to go.
Because that’s what signs do, what we want them to do. Make the decision for us. Only, in an often frustrating way, I’ve found they rarely do.
Last week, I made the decision as to where I was going to move to next. And for those of you who got the secret message in my last blog post: Congratulations!
For the rest of you, spoiler alert: Minneapolis, here I come!
Minneapolis hasn’t been on my radar as long as other places, but then again, this move was always going to be different than the last one. In fact my last big move is one of the reasons I was desperate to find something to tell me where I should go this time. I wanted to know it would work out.
In the end, though, I got no such sign. I got a lot of reassurance and advice, for which I’m so grateful. But nothing that clearly said one way or the other. In the end, Minneapolis won out simply because I wanted it to.
And, at the time, that didn’t feel like a good enough reason. Only the strangest thing happened after I made that decision: I started seeing the signs.
Since I made it, more or less, public knowledge where I was going, everyone I’ve told has been really excited for me. It’s natural, of course, that not everyone would be on board from the get-go, and I was really worried that someone, whose opinion mattered to me, might say something that would send my anxiety over the edge. Only no one really has. All the responses have been positive, exuberant, in fact. So much so that I’m letting myself get excited, which is a big deal for me.
Then, when my parents started telling people, every Minnesotan they know, of which there is a surprising number, suddenly came out of the woodwork. People who knew people I could talk to about jobs and more. One even gave me a map of Minnesota, after excitedly pointing out all the places she knew growing up in Minneapolis.
I don’t know about you, but, as far as signs go, I think these qualify. And keep in mind, all of this has happened only in the last week. Makes me wonder what will happen in the next.
And maybe that’s the lesson of signs. They have a habit of appearing after we’ve moved, after we’ve chosen. I wanted something to tell me beforehand, and while all of this was there the whole time, it was waiting for me to choose first. It wouldn’t have appeared if I hadn’t. It couldn’t. I had to choose to make the signs happen.
It makes sense, though, if you think about it. The dominos don’t start falling until after you start them. You have to push one in order to set off the chain reaction. And maybe that’s what I’ve done.
It’s enough to make me cautiously optimistic. There’s a part of me that is still waiting for something bad to happen, some obstacle to trip me up. And something probably will in order to test the resolve of this decision. But I’m holding on to this for now.
It’s weird. It’s like trying to navigate by watching the rearview mirror. You can’t, of course, and that’s kind of the point. That’s why the signs don’t show up beforehand. Because the point is that we have to choose. That’s where faith comes in. It’s when we don’t have all the information but choose to do our best anyway.
And when we do, sometimes, amazing things line up to confirm that we made the right decision.
I’ve always felt weird about saying “the universe” works towards these things, that reality blesses our desires somehow. Then again, I’ve felt weird about acknowledging that I’m allowed to want things to begin with. Blame it on my Baptist upbringing. But I’ve learned, over many years, that God likes irony, and it’s often when we stop looking and simply focus on doing the work that the thing we wanted to see all along finally shows up.
Because that’s how I think God often uses signs. Not to say: “Go this way.” But: “Keep going.”