COLUMN: Happy Accidents
Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 23, 2014 00:01
As a child, I always resisted situations that I didn’t have a plan for. I knew what I wanted, I planned out how circumstances would resolve themselves, and I would be intolerant of a situation happening any other way. Looking back on myself from this standpoint, I don’t know if these characteristics have totally changed. I’m still always looking for a strategy, security, or some way to know that everything will work out. However, in the past few years, I’ve had a series of what I like to call “happy accidents” or significant situations where I stood back and let fate or other forces in my life take control for a change. And many times, the outcomes ended up being more positive and transformative than I ever would have imagined.
Similarly to many of my peers, this mentality was flipped on its head when I went through one of the most stressful times in many young adults’ lives: the college admission process. Like many of my fellow Boston College students, I was a classic overachiever in high school. I was under the impression—thanks to a few absentminded guidance counselors and an over-zealously supportive mother—that I could apply to 12 schools and choose from a large pool of acceptances. Also potentially like many of my fellow students, I was dead wrong about that. When it came down to it, I attended BC almost by accident, or by a variety of factors left outside of my control. Little did I know that this would be the foundation of my “happy accidents” that have occurred since then.
Summer comes. Orientation. After two days of anxiety-ridden “group bonding” and “acclimation,” it was time for course registration. Filing up to Lyons with my group, I was not entirely sure of the classes that I was about to register for. I had heard about the PULSE program and was very curious about it, but I was too reserved to ask any further questions about it. However, when the call was made for the PULSE random selection drawing before class registration began, something within prompted me step up to the gathering group to throw my hat in the ring. Not entirely sure why I felt so called to volunteer for this program that I still didn’t know too much about, I nervously waited as the names were drawn. Out of seven other students, I was one of the “chosen ones.” Enter happy accident No. 1 that turned out to be more transformative than I ever could have hoped for.
I could give you a laundry list of other instances that have occurred in my life that seemed to have happened by accident or maybe by fate, but I’d rather you think for yourself about some of your most important life experiences and whether or not you had an integral role in making them happen … my guess is that perhaps you haven’t. Sometimes, the more important things in life happen when our backs are turned, and it’s important to be observant of what is occurring so that we don’t miss out on something beautiful. I’ve found over the course of my time at BC that letting accidents happen and learning to grow from them is a fundamental part of being human. If we exert so much energy trying to control everything in our world, what’s the fun of that? We think that we always know what’s right for ourselves but sometimes others know what’s best for you. Whether it’s a religious figure, a parent, a friend, a professor, a friendly grocery store cashier, a homeless man you see everyday on your way to work, a nurse, or a stranger that you meet sitting on a park bench, sometimes it’s better to be open to the opportunities and advice given by others. It’s just about letting go of the wheel for a change, sitting back, enjoying the ride, and appreciating whatever fate—if you believe in that kind of thing—has in store. At least in my case, sometimes these fateful accidents can be surprisingly life changing.