Or: The Butterfly Effect.
I prefer dominoes. (Actually, I prefer ‘dominos’ because I think it looks better, but perhaps that is just because it reminds me of takeaways.)
This is fascinating to me: the idea that one tiny decision can set off a series of events that leads to something important. Whether you believe in destiny or fate, or think that life is just a series of random events, with hindsight we can often pick out a seemingly insignificant incident that led to something big.
One of the most recent ones I can think of is that my friend has a job because my boss got pregnant. This could be fairly straightforward; maybe you’re thinking she was maternity cover. Nope! Bear with me:
- My boss-who-is-not-yet-my-boss gets pregnant.
- I get my job.
- My boss is invited to an event with an agency we work with, but she has to decline being so close to her due date.
- My boss asks if my colleague wants to go, and she then asks if anyone else in the department wants to go with her. I say yes.
- I attend the event and meet the company directors.
- They email to say thanks for coming – and that they’re looking to hire, if I know of anyone.
- I know my friend wants a publishing job, but she has no experience in the industry. I think ‘What the hell’ and give them her email anyway, saying this person is brilliant.
- They invite her for an interview and she gets the job.
Now, this is one of these stories of incredible good fortune that makes publishing postgraduates like myself weep. Of course, she was perfectly capable of doing the job, and if she hadn’t had a good interview, she wouldn’t have got it. But still – if my boss hadn’t been pregnant, she probably wouldn’t have got it either.
I can’t imagine where I would be now, and the things I might have missed out on (or experienced) if I hadn’t studied languages at university. Yet I only took Spanish in sixth year because of a ridiculous timetable clash that meant I couldn’t take media and English together. At the beginning of the year, I was set on journalism at Stirling. After being taught by this crazy, inspiring Spanish teacher (and my lovely French teacher) I ended up studying languages. The person who created our school timetable just might have changed the course of my whole life…
It makes me wonder what events are being set up right now, and which chains of events are already in motion. We know my Prince Charming is a day closer to appearing than he was yesterday, but what is he doing right now? Whose random act of kindness has inspired someone? Who has had their Harry Potter idea? Whose misplaced anger has upset someone else, and what could that lead to?
Who knocked over that first domino today? You’ll probably never know. And it is impossible to tell where the chains really begin and end. Perhaps we only know when we hear that final domino click into place. We can only see these things with hindsight, so there is always an element of storytelling; it is interesting though, because they are our stories.
What about you? Who are the strangers who changed your lives without even realising it?