I feel a little like I’ve been riding along the intended path for a few weeks now. I don’t mean to say that it has been easy these past few weeks. Just because you’re going in the “right” direction doesn’t mean that you’re going in the easy direction. In general though, I’m feeling confident in my choices of late. The universe has given me the proverbial thumbs up if, in fact, the universe does such a thing.
However, recent personal drama has shaken lose questions about my past. In particular, “how did I get here?” But more than that, I’m asking “how did I get here” in the context of others around me. — A better question might be “how am I here, and others are there?”
I’ll admit, I have lead a sheltered life. I am white. I grew up christian, in a middle-class family, in a medium-sized city in Texas. I went to a relatively affluent high school with other white kids, mostly, but kids of color too. I went to a Baptist church. I made decent enough grades. I got into college. It was a remarkably unremarkable upbringing.
But where does it diverge? Where does the path veer? And why?
There were many opportunities for my path to go a different way. There were many times when I “got lost”. My parents divorced when I was 18. I got involved with drugs in my early twenties. I had more than a few ill-advised sexual encounters. I wandered around Florence Italy at 4 in the morning looking for my friends. Rode along the autostrada on the back of a moped driven by someone that didn’t speak the same language as me. I dated an abusive guy. Got pulled over and given a sobriety test when I was definitely not sober. I buried my dad when I was 33.
Was it just luck that got me through those moments? Is it just luck that makes us who we are? If I wasn’t a white, christian, middle-class girl would those experiences have all gone a different way?
There are some that would say that my privilege put me on the path to success. And even despite some possible challenges, that same privilege helped me to overcome them. In other words, if I was not white or if I was poor or not christian, that things might have gone very different for me. I agree.
There are some that would say that who I am — the person that I am — is what got me to where I am. A combination of personality and intelligence, inherited traits, brought me success. Helped me to overcome life’s tribulations.
Still there are others that would say that life is a series of random events. That we happen upon experiences by chance. Many believe that chance alone gets us to the place that we are. That I am where I am simply by luck. Maybe.
Finally, there are those that believe that life is dictated by a higher power. That a benevolent creator guides us along the path, lays out our lives and gives us purpose. A god that leads us to the place that we are. They would have me believe that my life has brought me here, to this place, because god determined that I should be here, in this place. Of this, I am not convinced.
All of these feel grossly incomplete to me.
True, many of my experiences would have had very different outcomes if I was not white. Coming from a medium-sized, mostly segregated town in Texas, I do not doubt that. Wealth is also the determining factor for most success (in reverse: Poverty is the determining factor for most failure.) I will not deny that truth. As for genes, for inherited traits, I won’t argue that they’ve affected the direction of my life. Also, I cannot argue against life being random. I know that there isn’t always a reason why we turn out the way we do. And as for a higher power, the best I can say at this time is that I haven’t found a religion yet which describes this higher power in a way that I can accept. However, I do believe in a higher order of things. I do have faith in the benevolent mystery of the universe.
So where does that leave me?
I only ask because when I need to help the people that I love…When the people I love are in crisis, these are the questions that I feel I need answered. These are the things I need to understand so that I can help them. If don’t know how I got to where I am, how do I help them understand how they got where they are?
I can be present. I can listen. I can show compassion. I can love them. Is that it? It feels so thin. So incomplete. I want so badly to make it better. I will keep asking the questions in the hopes that the answers will make me better equipped.
Regardless of where this path leads me, I do know for sure that all the people that I love and who love me are the reason that I am where I am. So if this universe is nodding to me, it is because of that love. And the best thing that I can do, for now, is reciprocate.