Over dinner last Friday night at the Andover Inn, my grandfather, who was in town for Grandparents’ Day, said something very profound and concise. He simply stated, “There’s not much use in planning, as life takes turns no one expects.”
During the meal I barely paid that statement much mind, but afterwards it haunted me. My grandfather made an example of his career, explaining that he would never in a million years have guessed he would do what he does now or even that such a job existed.
My grandfather is named Mort Janklow. He was a lawyer for twenty years before he found his true calling, which was to become a literary agent. It just so happened that, while he was a lawyer, many of his clients were authors, and by chance, they had terrible representation. A late client and close friend of my grandfather’s named William Safire sparked his career by asking him, as a lawyer and confidante, to help him out with his career, as he apparently had a less than adequate agent. That is how it all began. Now, forty-one years and many clients later, my grandfather still gets up and goes to work as a literary agent, 9 AM to 5 PM, or sometimes later, to my grandmother’s dismay.
My mother had a similarly surprising situation. She was feeling sour one day, and had decided not to go to a party her friend was hosting, but the friend persisted and insisted that she attend. Lo and behold, she met my stepfather (who, I kid you not, coincidentally was also not going to attend the party, yet at the last minute inexplicably decided to go). They would not have met one another had they not schlepped themselves to the party. They are now happily married and have a gorgeous 2-year-old son.
In my own life, I have come across the unexpected too. I had not heard of specific boarding schools, no less thought of applying to them, until early December 2009. A boy at my old school had said briefly that he was applying to some schools called “Deerfield and Exeter”, two words that, at the time, were very foreign and almost comical. After a pivotal discussion with my mother, we decided I too should pursue the notion of leaving home and going to a boarding school, which we then spent half the night researching. Had I not randomly conversed with that boy, I would be sitting in a classroom, miserable, surrounded by lethargic teens inapt to learn and even less willing to try.
My grandfather’s statement prompted me to think of all the people I’ve encountered at Andover who toil away, plotting every last month of their life to the nth degree, scheming, assuming and dreaming their ideal future’s into existence. What these dreamers don’t understand is that life will throw obstacles in their path, that chance encounters and events will shape and change the course of their pre-planned pipedream path.
Is there a difference between fate and providence? I personally think that it is fascinating and very true that small, seemingly simple decisions could perhaps control the course of your future. Let life take you where it may, for we are simply incapable of imagining what we will experience and become. Just ask my grandfather.
Veronica Harrington is a new Lower from Los Angeles, CA.