Austin Texas. January 27, 1979: The fortunate accident of my American birth.
The first of many fortunate accidents that have combined to act as an invisible hand guiding my fate.
Austin, Texas. August, 1996: I am 17 years old. I wake up, and while washing my face, have an epiphany. Life is precious. I am too young to be this unhappy. Layers of my life peel away in minutes, as I stand before the bathroom mirror of my apartment. I decide to move to Mexico, go to art school, and stop being depressed. I cut off my long black hair, and bleach it platinum blonde. I become a different person, a seeker.
A chance realization leads me towards my future, away from doubt.
Ouarzazate, Morocco. July, 1999: I am 20 years old. I watch a blind man, hunched with age, led through the streets by a young boy. The boy’s voice and hand reach out to me, begging, “Un dirham, un diram.” That evening, as I eat my dinner at an outdoor table, I watch a rail thin woman pick through the garbage behind the restaurant, salvaging food. The baby on her hip has a distended belly, and flies swarm their faces. I give her my food, and return to my hostel, where I cry myself to sleep. I will never take anything for granted ever again.
Two encounters reveal to me the fact that “opportunities” are not universal.
Valley du Rose, Morocco. July, 1999: I get stranded in a small town, and am rescued by a young Berber man who takes me to his family's village, where I stay for a week. They share their scarce food with me, take me on hikes through the valley, henna my hands and feet, and eventually pay my bus fare back to Marrakesh, where I can use a cash machine. I will never pity the poor again.
An accidental stranding shows me human kindness, the easy generosity of the poor.
Austin, Texas. February 2001: I volunteer with AIDS patients and nursing home residents, giving massage. The sick and the dying have fragile bodies, with sharp bones. Their breath often reeks of incipient decay. They need human contact more than anyone. They entrusted me with their failing flesh, and I focused my entire being on giving them love, through my hands. Sometimes, I cried in my car after leaving. Sometimes, I felt encased in a gauzy haze of mutual kindness that was almost blinding.
I unintentionally discovered how to love a stranger, on the basis of our shared humanity.
Muncie, Indiana. February 2004: I am 25 years old, and struggling beneath the weight of architecture school and an abusive relationship. The fights, the name calling, and eventually the violence--transform me into someone I no longer recognize. I am afraid. I am apologetic. I am suicidal. And I am so badly broken, I don’t know if I can ever be whole again. He goes one step too far, and I throw him out, finally. I will never judge another woman trapped in an abuse cycle ever again.
A mistake of a relationship instructed my heart about navigating fear, and weakness, and the strength it takes to forgive yourself.
Fast Forward. Stop. Play.
November 20, 2007.
Every day another sentence appears in the thank you letter my life is writing to the universe.
I give thanks for the lucky accident of being born in the West to limitless opportunity.
I give thanks for the ability to change my mind, my life, and the world beyond myself.
I give thanks for the windows of perception travel has opened to me.
I give thanks for human kindness.
I give thanks for forgiveness.
But above all, I give thanks for the series of accidents that we call life. For the mystery and promise of the unknown, and the ability to learn from mistakes.