life’s significant insignificant moments.

I read a whole book today. I can’t remember the last time I had time to do that, or the last time I used the time I had to do that. It is absolutely awesome to get lost in a story until, at least for a few hours, it’s hard to disconnect your thoughts from the characters’. Anyway, that’s not at all the subject of this post. The character in the story (Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry) recognizes and investigates some of the moments that changed her life, most of them insignificant. It pushed me to think of my own life, and to do the same. I thought of major things, of course: my mom’s death, moving in with Chris and Lori, changing schools, deciding on a college, moving to Tuscaloosa. But it took more effort to uncover those moments that seemed so trivial, that strung everything else together, that would have changed my life had they gone differently. Tiny minutes when I made a choice and I had no idea the impact it would have on the rest of my years, and I shudder to think about what might have happened had I not done some of the things I have. I’m sure it would have worked out; it would be a different life, sure, but one I’d love all the same. I don’t want to think about it though, because I love this life so very much.

Some of the most significant insignificant moments in my life thus far (not necessarily in chronological order):

  • The first that comes to mind is deciding to join the yearbook staff my ninth grade year. I had no idea it would snowball into a near obsession and lead me to discover my life’s passion and a career path; I was doing it simply because I thought it would be cool to have a class with Callie, and I thought it would be an easy class. It turned out to be one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. I miss it tendlessly, but I know that Alabama’s yearbook, a magazine-type with a yearly output of about 300, wouldn’t be the same, and why mess with something good? I can still feel the excitement of sitting down the write some copy, my fingers jumping with anticipation, or opening a new package of proofs, red pen in hand, scouring the page for errors that I’d trained my eyes to jump to. And what if I’d never put my name on the list? What if I’d never become best friends with Callie, or gotten so close to Mrs. Carmichael or the other teachers who frequented that library office? What if I was sitting here now blogging about how I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life because I had never felt the joy that comes when I arrange words into the perfect sentence? Ah. What if, my friends.
  • The second, then, walks hand in hand with the first, but is of an entirely different nature. It is Callie. How friendship wasn’t all that much of a chance, and she doesn’t remember. I thought she was so cool and awesome and I was literally in awe of her, which is why I struck up conversation with her. My first memory of us is her flipping over periodic table flashcards and I read them out from across the room in Mrs. Stinson’s physical science class. What if I hadn’t? What if I had chosen to be friends with Laine, who sat behind me, or Rachel, who sat to my left? (On the contrary, I would have never been friends with Rachel because she held some quite hateful feelings towards me for reasons that are still unknown to this day. But still.) What if, on that day, I’d studied my own list of periodic elements since we obviously had a quiz or test coming up, instead of turning to look at Callie studying hers? How different would my high school years have been without her? Would i have stayed friends with Ashley, who was headed down the wrong path, alongside our “best” friends Blake and Krystal? It’s a question I don’t want to know the answer to, because I’m afraid of what I’ll find. 
  • Here’s another one: One morning I was flipping through the music channels, trying to find one to listen to while I got ready for school, and I landed on a contemporary Christian one. I hadn’t heard much of this style, as my church family, largely comprised of people with walkers, insisted on belting on the beautiful verses of “Victory in Jesus” Sunday after Sunday since I was, you know, five years old. But I absolutely loved it. It launched me into a relationship with the Lord that has blossomed and developed in the years since, and I can trace it back to that one morning when I heard Chris Tomlin or Third Day and realized that my love for lyrics and words and my love for the Lord could connect in a way that left me breathless. 
  • One more: Obviously, deciding to go to Alabama was a big decision in my life, but I still wonder, what I had found a way to go to Vanderbilt, or picked BSC, because they DID come calling? And of course, the day I moved to Tuscaloosa changed my life in more ways than I could ever list, even if I wanted to. I’m absolutely positive there are bookoodles of changes yet to be made, and impacts of this that I haven’t yet discovered, but that I will look back and see, much in the way that I’m delineating these. And one might even argue that deciding to participate in Alabama Action was a rather large decision, although I’d counter with the fact that after I dismissed at first glance the first time, I decided in about 13 seconds to do it the second time (due to Lori’s “Do it” stare and her words about possibly losing my scholarship. She scared me into action.) So the next moment is after all of this, when I was scared and shaken and vulnerable and homesick that first night. I decided, on a whim, to go to Mellow Mushroom. I decided, on a whim, to sit down at an empty table and I prayed that someone would sit down next to me. It wasn’t fate or destiny, but it was God who placed around me the most wonderful people I was so scared I’d never meet. And had I given in to my nerves that night or decided I wasn’t in the mood for pizza, things would probably be entirely different. And that thought makes me wince, because I am absolutely certain that I’m friends with the most incredible people I could have chosen on campus.
Life is full of decisions. Some of them are agonizing, and I’m sure I haven’t experienced the half of them. So many seem inconsequential, tiny nuggets that don’t mean much in the long run. But it turns out that those moments are what decide how our lives will be, and those on-the-spot decisions, when we follow our guts, sure that either outcome would suit us, write our stories.
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