Three brothers are wandering through a desert when they come across a merchant who has lost his camel… It sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale. Or perhaps a Paulo Coelho novel. These three brothers, the merchant and the camel are central characters in the origins of serendipity. After being accused of stealing the camel, the brothers are saved from an unfortunate end when the camel in question appears in an instant of fate and good luck. That’s what serendipity is. Fate and good luck.
I’ve certainly had my fair share of both fate and good luck. As much as I pretend to be a faithless curmudgeon, I have a stubborn belief that the universe won’t push me off a cliff. I might jump off the cliff, but even then I believe there will be a feather mattress at the bottom. I might freak out a bit while I’m falling, but in the end, I know I will be alright. Call it faith. Call it privilege. Call it serendipity.
2016 was full of fate and good luck for me. It began with so much uncertainty and self-doubt. It brought me to Seattle and to a new career path. It saw new friends and old. It brought conclusions to pieces of my past I had left unresolved. It reintroduced me to my passions and gave new life to my ambitions and dreams. It’s ups and downs oscillated but always with a positive trend. I read many fantastic books (and some pretty terrible books) and I learned. A new cast of influencers has already made an indelible mark on the way I think about life, the universe, and everything. 2016 ended with me dancing in the softly falling snow, filled with a sense of universal gemütlichkeit.
“But Anna! Everything fell apart in 2016! Terrible things are afoot and the world is ending! How can you begin to say nice things about the-year-that-shall-not-be-named?” With the arrival of 2017, we are all waiting with baited breath. In this moment, we are all waiting for the camel to walk into the room and absolve us of our terrible ending. We are past the edge of the cliff – falling and freaking out just a little bit, uncertain of what awaits us at the bottom. But I’m not waiting to find out.
Here is my proposition: let’s choose to be our own camel.
Ok. I might have stretched this metaphor a bit too far.
I have a laundry list of New Years’ Resolutions: run more, write more, think more. I’m secretly hoping to lose some weight and maybe find a fulfilling relationship. I want to do my job better and make more friends. I want to read at least the same number of books I did last year. I want to be funnier and friendlier and more suave. I want to be less anxious. I want to begin making a mark on the world and maybe go to the dentist. But at the core of it all, I want to be more purposeful. I want to take responsibility for my life, my choices, and my influence over the universe. I want to live an intentional life.
Serendipity is not the same thing as thankfulness. Serendipity is not the same things as success. An intentional life is both of those things. It is the active pursuit of opportunity. More than that, it is the active creation of opportunity. It is the difference between “this happened” and “I did this.” When the universe nudges us in the right direction or opens a door at the right time, intentionality allows us to appreciate the moment while still allowing us to claim credit for our successes. Intentionality also adds hope back into hopeless situations. It gives us choice and efficacy in the face of camels wandering through the desert. The future may be uncertain — even troubling — but I declare my right to do something about it. 2016 was the year of serendipity. 2017 is the year of intention.