Tori Amos has many great lines, but perhaps my favorite is, “You say you’re waiting on Fate, but I think Fate is now, I think Fate is now, waiting on us.”
I came from a family that was always waiting on Fate to make things better, correct the wrongs, and create an easier life.
We were a very talented but frustrated people. The could-have-beens weighed on us like a dead albatross around our necks. For any success there was a sense of inadequacy, and a feeling of inevitability around every failure.
An illustration of the mindset I grew up with was my beloved grandmother longing to travel to Ireland to see the country where her mother was from and missing the opportunity because she didn’t want to spend the money on a trip abroad. Eventually she was too old and sick to do anything at all. When she died, there was plenty of money left over, certainly enough for a round trip to Heathrow and a puddle jumper to Dublin.
B&B’s were maybe forty dollars a night back then. Easy. It could have been easy.
There were worse offenders for waiting on Fate around my house growing up besides dear old grandma. There was much complaining about how difficult life was and how unfair. If only things had turned out differently for the adults, if only Fate had dealt them another hand, then they would be happy.
As if we were prisoners of circumstance, everyone in our home seemed to feel powerless against an invisible hand.
Fortunately, I had a light bulb moment when I was a teenager, and I realized I couldn’t change them but I could change me. As a young adult I understood no one who takes their family for granted will have a happy life—because being a part of a family can be the greatest source of joy. While my family of origin waited for the hand of Fate to deliver a package of value, they missed the value of what they already had.
When I was twenty, I traveled to Ireland a couple times while living abroad. I didn’t understand what the big deal was.
It was just a place. It was just a leap.
The worst offender for waiting on Fate was my father, who was the king of pain around our house. He never tired of complaining about how difficult his life was and how unfair. If only he hadn’t had children, he would have been happy. If only he hadn’t married my mother, he would have been really successful. Feeling like a prisoner of circumstance, he was crippled, and crippling to everyone around him.
When I was little I believed his life was made worse for having me. As an adult I understand no one who takes their family for granted will have a happy life—because being a part of a family can be the greatest source of joy.
While he waited for the hand of Fate to deliver a package of value, he missed the value of what he already had.
Somewhere in late adolescence, I decided I didn’t want to wait on Fate to give me a nice life. I no longer believed what my family taught me about powerlessness and despair. I would make my own Fate.
I guess I was a rebel with a cause.
Taking risks to improve my circumstances is something I’ve done more often the last few years, following a divorce. For example, at the end of 2011, I attended a neighborhood meeting for a political campaign.
Everyone introduced themselves and talked a little bit about what they did and what resources they could bring to the campaign. I mentioned I am an artist and I also enjoy blogging. The organizer named me a Digital Captain, responsible for writing short articles and taking photos at events. This felt like such a reach for me because my only experience was doorbelling and making phone calls. But I decided Fate was now and I said I would do it.
The following summer I was asked to be a Regional Digital Lead for this national campaign and I accepted. I took the role with trepidation, after all, who was I to write content for a national site? But I did, and I also organized volunteers, edited photos and articles, and published over two dozen pieces at the website. It was an honor and a privilege to donate my time to a cause I believed in.
I made my Fate a few months after the campaign ended successfully when I accepted a leadership position at a nonprofit arts organization. Though I’d worked and volunteered at art galleries for twenty years, I had never run anything. But I knew not to hesitate when the job was offered. I would learn how to be an Executive Director while I did it, and I have. Two and a half years later, I have created opportunities for my organization and cleaned up problems.
Sure, I have made plenty of beginner’s mistakes and I know someone else could do my job as well or better than me—but still, I’m doing it. I’m running a nonprofit.
There is a flow one gets into when living Fate now. One opportunity leads to another and another. There are no stutter steps, only happy accidents, and one road ending begins a new one. We can all learn to make our own Fate.
“Make this easy…it’s not as heavy as it seems,” Tori Amos sings.
Living doesn’t have to be that heavy, and when we feel we can act, we often make it lighter. The people I came from didn’t get this, but hopefully I can be the beginning of a family line that does.
Author: Maureen Andrade
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: kwerfeldein at Flickr