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What makes something a “life-changing” moment?

Yesterday, I was doing my rock your handwriting challenge. It asked me to write about a life-changing moment. For a while I sat there, stumped. What makes something a life-changing moment? How would you recognize it? I mean, some people truly have those monumental things happen such as a car accident that causes serious injuries and forever alters the path of their life. Not all life-changing moments are bad but you get the idea. Sometimes, those moments are easy to spot. For most of us though, I suspect that they aren’t as easy to identify. Theoretical physics talks about multi-universes and parallel universes where every possible iteration of your life exists. For every decision, what if you decided differently. The path of your life would look drastically different.

In that sense, isn’t every moment in life a “life-changing” moment? Every time you make a decision to do something, you make a decision to not do something else. Go to this school or that school. Study this major or that. Accept a job offer here or there. Every one of those moments closes off one path and opens up another. I don’t think this is a bad thing. After all, we could hardly do everything. Sometimes, a decision has to be made. But when I look back and think about all those decisions, I’m struck by just how important some of them are even though they didn’t seem to be at the time. The lyrics of a song ring in my mind as I think about that: “I set out on a narrow way, many years ago…” It didn’t seem so narrow but every time I decided to do a certain thing, I closed off certain routes and opened up others. Sometimes I kept pushing at a certain path even though it was thoroughly closed off to me but eventually, I moved onward.

We need to celebrate every moment and recognize the potential in it. I don’t mean to say that you should be paralyzed by indecision. After all, we need to make decisions. I think it’s important to think about those decisions carefully though and not take them for granted. Even a decision that seems benign can lead you in a direction that you never intended or anticipated. I’ll leave you with a story for thought.

In 2001, after I graduated from college, I got my first job at Brigham and Women’s hospital. I was working as a research assistant to a doctor in the radiology department. I worked there for a full year and learned many things along the way. Ultimately, I made the decision to leave because the person I was working for made promises that he wasn’t keeping – instead of being a research assistant, I was being used as a radiology tech and was frustrated by being used for a different job than what I was hired for. In my time there I found that I enjoyed the environment and I would have loved to continue to work there but I didn’t see a reasonable way to do that in the situation I was in. I left and then worked several retail jobs and childcare jobs before going back to school to earn a certification to teach. I enjoyed teaching for awhile and in many ways, I was well suited to the job. However, I was forcing something, trying to make it something that it never was. The job also changed drastically over the 10 years that I worked in it, eventually becoming a shadow of its original self, filled with paperwork and useless testing and administrators who were not being very supportive. What I really wanted was out of my reach or seemed to be so far beyond my grasp that I never considered it. I thought that path was closed. All that really happened was I delayed that moment from happening. There are many moments that could have changed my path, from an interview that I turned down with the State Bureau of Investigation to leaving a school that was fantastic because of circumstances that I thought would cause me more grief than I could handle. I still ended up here though. Maybe all those moments happened because I needed to be pushed down a certain path, forced to realize what I needed to change: going back to where I turned off the path and heading in the right direction again. I don’t know. Someday, maybe I’ll have an answer. Until then, I’m going to try and treat each moment as though it will someday change my life even if I can’t see how right away.

So that’s my existential thought for the day. Tomorrow is another day, ladies and gentlemen. Make it valuable.

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