It happens, but don’t look for it to. When it does, it’ll be obvious.
Like when you’re really jonesing to work for an organization, and they bring you on, and then get you on a call to meet with their newest collaborator — someone you worked with over a decade ago, on another continent, and haven’t spoken to in nearly 10 years. (And yes, got along with, just fell out of touch). That feels serendipitous.
The trouble is choosing between options rife with serendipity. I used to feel it was pretty safe to bet on the options where things fell into place, but then, I didn’t have enough experience to realize that at some point, they might well start to fall out of place: the perfect match isn’t quite the right fit any more; the funding falls through; the deadline on your mother’s birthday gets pushed back and you need to make a decision sooner. Sometimes we need to choose, and then re-choose again: do we then make the same choice over, reinforcing that that’s what we really want? Or do we take it as an opportunity to reassess, and either choose the same, if it passes all the right criteria, or choose differently, if, given new circumstances or information, it doesn’t?
I choose the latter. This is where using Holistic Management has come in really handy for me, and having a Holistic Context. I can use the set of testing questions, and knowing my statement of purpose, desired quality of life and future resource base, to decide: is this still what I want? Am I still headed in the right direction?
I’m doing that a lot these days with decisions I’ve made and am still following up on; with my daughter’s birth, it’s shifted my perspective and priorities in ways I couldn’t have imagined. In fact, in many ways, it’s shifted them in exactly the opposite direction to how I’d presumed: I’d imagined I’d be more motivated to work towards the goals I’d set out, more driven to ‘make something of myself’, and so on. In fact, though, I feel less driven to strive after the arbitrary goals I’d had set, and much more content to let life swirl around us for awhile. I’m happy in a way I haven’t been able to be before, but only imagined: content, and standing in a place of ownership rather than wishing. I’m past that feeling of looking from the outside in, and instead, feel like I’m in place — whether it’s the place I want to be or not, it’s mine, and that feels good and right and solid. I’m loathe to step out of that now to pursue another goal, another set of vaguely defined possibilities, to gear my life and ask others to gear theirs towards the pursuit of an external metric of success.
So serendipity now, too, has come in a different way I’d imagined. By injury, in fact, and being immobilized for several months, I’ve been forced to slow down, regain some humility (and humanity, alas), take stock, and gather myself and my desires into an organized picture. Decide: what do I want next? For the future? For her future?
The answer looks very different than it used to.