youthful misconceptions and a random world


There’s a saying here in Scotland, “What’s for you won’t go by you.” I expect there’s a similar way of expressing this sentiment in most countries and in most languages. We humans have a strong attraction to the notion that there is a plan or a pattern or a greater meaning to all the things that happen to us. And especially in times of hardship, pain and stress, the hope that there is a greater significance to the whole of the experience is often what people cling to in order to keep going.

Because of this, commonly held superstitions, formal religions and silly philosophical theories hold great appeal. If everyone says there’s a plan, then it must be true, mustn’t it? I can see how for those with an imaginary plan in the background, the notion that all life experiences happen for no reason other than chance is frightening, empty and perhaps rather depressing.

In the spirit of reality check, here are a few misconceptions I had as a teenager and young adult that it would have been nice to have been disabused of at an earlier stage in life.

1. There is no perfect romantic match or soul mate waiting to be discovered in a cloud of magic dust at the right moment in your life. There are many people with whom it’s possible to have long-term, fulfilling relationships (if you want that kind of thing) and getting together with any of them is a matter of meeting at an appropriate moment in your lives, your predisposition to adapt to each other and the strength of chemicals you fire off in each other. If you’re lucky enough to meet those criteria with anyone, staying together is likely to be a matter of luck, lack of other options and sheer determination.

2. There is no perfect career that you are born into with a naturally (or supernaturally) endowed dose of talent. There are probably a number of routes that will be more suited to your interests and abilities, but if you’re focused and determined enough, you are likely to be able to carve out a living in any field you choose.

3. There is no place you are or were ‘meant to be’ at a certain time in your life because something amazing happened. Coincidences and generally cool events can happen at any time and anywhere in your life. If what you view as the pivotal moments in your life hadn’t occurred for some reason or another, other pivotal moments would have rolled up in their place and life would have continued on its way. Ponder the myriad parallel universes you probably don’t exist in.

So, instead of ‘what’s for you won’t go by you’, I would suggest the rather unromantic version ‘nothing’s for you and lots of opportunities will go by you’. But don’t be glum, in this random universe anything may be round the corner.