Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fate loves the fearless. -- James Russell Lowell

I'd like to think I'm fearless, but I'm not. I have a healthy fear of heights, high speeds, and reckless activity of all kinds (all rolled up into one foolish pasttime called skiing -- good choice, Kate!). Now, thanks to the magic of the internet, I also fear dying alone and no one noticing until after the cats have eaten my face. I also possess what is perhaps an unhealthy fear of my brother sneaking up behind me and placing his hands around my neck in a fake-strangling move. God, I hate that.

In my high school, many of the best students went on to study at the University of Wisconsin. It's a great school, you can't beat in-state tuition, it's close enough to home that you can drag all your dirty laundry home over Thanksgiving weekend without the airline charging you for overweight luggage, and the football team is first-rate.

When it comes to prospective students, I was the perfect candidate. I had the grades, I had the ACT scores, I had the extra-curricular activities. I loved the campus (progressive), I loved the people (50,000), I loved the department (top ten in the country), I loved the football team (recent Rose Bowl champions). I loved the price tag, and I was in line for a scholarship that would cut the price in half. It was nearly fait accompli that I would go to Madison.

And that's what I hated.

I spent two years searching high and low for a school that met all of my needs, particularly the It's Not Madison criterion. I focused my efforts on more distant locales, as location was a legitimate strike against Madison. I didn't love the 40-miles-from-home thing on two accounts -- (1) I was trying to escape winter and this certainly didn't do it and (2) I wanted to experience another part of the world. So I requested information from North Carolina State and Kansas and Georgia Tech. My mother chided me that, if I lived in another part of the country, I'd be dying to go to Madison. I partially conceded that point, protesting that I still might not be interested in winter.

Then in the fall of my senior year, I had a little freak-out about the fact that I'd applied only to huge state universities, and I dragged my parents (mentally and physically) through a series of small- to mid-sized private universities: Valparaiso, Bradley, Marquette.

In the end, as we all know, I went to Madison. And I loved it. Even today when I think about things I might have done differently in college, I always picture them in terms of being on campus in Madison. I never envision myself in an entirely different setting.

To this day, though, I don't feel like the decision was 100% mine. There's a part of me that feels like The Fates won out. That, regardless of what I attempted, or what other options I explored, I was predestined for this path. That, if this were a Greek tragedy, I'd be killing my father and sleeping with my mother by now.

This, more than anything, is what I fear: The Inevitable. Not The Inevitable like dying, but The Inevitable like, the die has already been cast. That I have but little choice in the matter of what course my life takes. (Um, we've discussed my control issues before, right?) The Inevitable makes me worry, because it seems too easy. I was taught that good things happen when you work for them. Life hands me an opportunity on a platter? An opportunity that I haven't been working my ass off for over the past six years? I'm instantly suspicious. Or, if not suspicious, I at least have to go through the process of ruling out all other conceivable possibilities before I can accept that, just maybe, this offering really is the right thing for me. And I remind myself that I do work hard every single day, and that effort is part of what creates these opportunities. My hard work = grades = ACT scores = scholarship, without which a University of Wisconsin education would not have been in the cards for me, despite how easy it seemed to get in, once senior year rolled around.

Does my hard work create these opportunities? Or am I destined to "the fix'd events of fate's remote decrees?" As long as good things come my way, I guess it doesn't much matter, does it?


At Tue Jan 30, 11:32:00 PM PST, Anonymous m.t. said...

it's lovely to live on a raft, jim.

At Wed Jan 31, 08:06:00 AM PST, Anonymous clk said...

“Fate is for those too weak to determine their own destiny.”
“Each man is the architect of his own fate.”
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
“Fate is a misconseption, it's only a cover-up for the fact you don't have control over your own life.”

Is that enough or should I keep going?

You are too stubborn to succumb to predestination! Where is the fun?

At Wed Jan 31, 01:48:00 PM PST, Anonymous Clueless said...

"Marriage is a great institution, but I am not ready for an institution yet." Mae West (So what if it doesn't relate - its a great quote)

At Thu Feb 01, 06:40:00 AM PST, Anonymous Superfantastic said...

I don't think I can ever have a cat again.

At Thu Feb 01, 07:22:00 AM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was so afraid to click on that link. I squinted through nearly closed eyelids just in case there was a picture. Yeesh. I totally believe my cat would do that. I could only hope that I'm deceased and not just incapacitated.

At Thu Feb 01, 07:11:00 PM PST, Anonymous Dave said...

The cat didn't accpet it's destiny. Be the cat ...


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