A friend once told me that life and time are like fickle friends. Whether you are a fatalist or an indeterminist, there are some things that go wrong, seem unavoidable or are just plain surprising.
As someone who thinks through almost every possibility for almost every situation, I am constantly shocked by how things can be the exact opposite of the 50 different scenarios I imagined. A few weeks ago, I was on my way to meet a new friend, and I planned out at least a dozen topics in my head. If I said this, how could I lead the conversation in this direction?
Needless to say, I am frequently wrong. Conversations never go the direction that I am expecting. As a psychology major, I should be more inclined to think about the aspects of life that I always forget: other people are always thinking, just like I am.
In the busy college world of organizing schedules and doing classwork, it's easy to forget about the other variables. People are unpredictable, and no decision we make will have a guaranteed result.
My theory is that there are two reasons why things never go as we plan.
First, timing is everything. Benjamin Franklin's old adage, "You delay, but time will not," is true. Everyday we put off dozens of things, stressing too much about things that either don't matter or that we could affect if we would just stop thinking and act. Think of every great story of love that was later lost. Timing was the ultimate failure. Consider "Romeo and Juliet." Romeo arrives too late to save his beloved.
What about "Atonement?" Robbie dies only hours before the evacuation at Dunkirk. These may just be stories, but isn't there some truth in literature? Timing is one thing all humans share, yet our individual perceptions of it are entirely different.
It's easy to forget that other people had lives before you met them, and these parts of their history determine the decisions they make. Time never seems to go the way we intend. When we're happy and want time to slow down, it dissipates before us like words being erased off of a piece of paper. When we want something to simply move on quickly, time slows down, refusing to leave.
Second, circumstances are unavoidable. At the beginning of the year, I knew what clubs I would be in and who I would hang out with. Plans change. I ended up leaving the club I had planned on loving. By a stroke of chance or fate, I found myself searching for something to kill my extra energy. My roommate left me a list of clubs. I emailed four, and only one emailed me back. That club, which I never would have known about otherwise, now has a permanent spot in my weekly planner. I have re-ignited a childhood passion and talk to people I may have never met. This wouldn't have happened if the person who emailed me back had been too busy to check their email that day. If my original club had worked out, I would not have found myself in the club I am in now.
Every person has their own time and circumstances. We can never truly plan ahead, because we're all variables in the lives of everyone else. I personally believe that the end result is set, and we only choose the path we take to get there. Neither the path nor the result should be the focus, though, because we can only control how we use our time and circumstances to make decisions. Life isn't what we want it to be. Instead, it just is.
— Samantha Warchol is a sophomore in psychology. She can be reached at email@example.com.