I have a box of Fate. It’s a small cardboard box decorated with red construction paper and poorly made Scotch tape, and in a previous life it was a popcorn box.
The box of Fate was created for two reasons:
1) to replace the proverbial hat (which for the last two years was actually a cup) from which I can draw students’ names for various activities in class;
2) to “subtly” remind students of the role of fate in literature, particularly in Shakespearean tragedies.
I introduced the Box of Fate at the beginning of our Romeo and Juliet unit as a way to choose which students would read which parts in the play during Literature class. At first, everyone hated it, but after a couple of days, the students were practically begging me to use the Box of Fate for everything: who has to read aloud next, who has to present their essay next, etc. Why? Well, I think it’s because we all like a little gamble. We also take a sick form of pleasure out of watching other people suffer.
I feel odd waxing philosophically about this, mostly because by doing so, I feel like I’m about to give a sermon, and that makes me feel like a cliché of a blogger, but here goes:
I don’t want the Box of Fate to rule me.
Think of all the people who allowed their lives to be ruled by Fate: Juliet Capulet, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Doctor Zhivago’s Lara, Catharine Earnshaw, etc. (Yes, I know that these women are all fictional, but I am both an English major AND an English teacher, so deal with it.) Unless you’re Taylor Swift, you should know that while these women were severely romantic, they were also severely tragic.
I don’t want to be a tragic heroine.
There are a lot of things that I want to be. I want to be
an Oscar-winning actress,
a fashion designer,
the inventor of the first time machine,
a Broadway star,
the next JK Rowling,
a private investigator,
a tattoo artist,
a vampire slayer, and
married to a fireman.
That list is a bit random, isn’t it? Some are impossible dreams, best left to daydreams during my lunchtime. Some are dreams that sound great in the abstract, but the reality can be incredibly dull. (For every case a detective gets, there’s always piles and piles of boring paperwork to fill out.)
Some are dreams that require work. They require long hours of studying, classes, lectures, loans, and debt. They require starting over. They require putting life on hold. But they’re doable.
Some dreams mean diving headfirst into unknown waters. They require leaps of faith. They require courage.
And courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the defiance of it. (Emily Harris, 2010.)
I can remember sitting in my bedroom at my grandparents’ house in Virginia on Christmas Day, 2007. My laptop was before me, and an application for a teaching position was waiting for me. And I didn’t want to do it. I was afraid, and I did not believe that I would ever be hired.
Two days later QSI contacted me and asked me to meet them for an interview in St. Louis.
So in January 2008, I skipped class and took a Greyhound from Springfield to St. Louis. It snowed, I was an hour early, and when I went into the room where the interview was going to take place, the two men shook my hand and asked, “How do you feel about teaching 9th graders?”
It was the weirdest thing I have ever experienced.
And it was a good experience. I do not regret my time here, I am NOT saying that.
I love it here in Kazakhstan.
But I can also remember August 2008, two suitcases stuffed to bursting on the living room floor, and I looking at my grandmother and saying, “I don’t want to leave tomorrow.”
When she asked me why, I was truthful: If I moved to Kazakhstan I was putting off the inevitable. I was postponing life.
I don’t think so now.
I’ve had so many experiences in the last two years that have been so rewarding. I feel more confident in myself than I ever did on that day I walked across the stage at James River and accepted my diploma.
But this has been just one chapter.
When I moved here, I was thrown into a whirlwind life, and I loved it. I couldn’t wait to return.
Things change. I still love this place, but I think I’ve outgrown it.
I could be passive aggressive. I could just sit back and let the Box of Fate decide what happens to me, but I’ve been passive aggressive my whole life.
I don’t want the Box of Fate to rule me.
I don’t want to constantly squirm as that hand reaches deep within that popcorn box and pulls out the name of the person or job or country or what have you that is left over after others have taken their turn.
I want something more. Or rather, Someone more.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
I made a major decision yesterday at school, and when the decision was done, I sat back in my chair in that office and was a little surprised that there was no pomp and circumstance, no ticker tape parade, no heralding of trumpets. There was just quiet and calm.
I left that office and walked through the halls of Almaty International School stunned by what I had just done. I saw a friend and told him.
Today, that same friend told me over a belated Thanksgiving dinner that he and his wife were very proud for me and terribly excited.
And he also told me that in the last 24 hours it was as if I had become a new person. That I was happier than I had been all year.
He was right.
Did I make the biggest mistake of my life? Perhaps. Will I regret it? Only if I choose to.
But all I can think is, if I don’t go out and make mistakes now, then I know my regret at the end of my life will be so much more worse.
And even if I did make a mistake, at least I’m not alone.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 29:11-14a)
JK Rowling once said, ”It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all.” I like that.
Being the next JK Rowling might be an impossible dream, but it will be fun trying.
Discovering the person God wants me to be? Even more fun.
I’m not going to be a tragic heroine like Juliet Capulet, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Doctor Zhivago’s Lara, Catharine Earnshaw. I’m going to be a heroine like Jo March, Rose Dawson, Elizabeth Bennet, and Ada Monroe. Women who survived life rather than succumbed to it.
(Yes, I know they’re fictional. Gosh.)
So get ready, World, for the next chapter in this woman’s life. It’s going to be epic.
This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me –
The simple News that Nature told –
With tender Majesty
Her Message is committed
To Hands I cannot see -
For love of Her – Sweet – countrymen -
Judge tenderly – of Me