Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Casting Lots

On occasion, someone will ask me how I managed to start life in the Midwest (where I was perfectly content to continue living and be perfectly discontent for the remainder of my life, so long as I could finish my education, get married, and make babies) and then move to New York City with only seven days notice and no place to live and complete uncertainty about the future or life or what the hell am I thinking moving from a town of fifty people to a sprawling metropolis of 8 million, which happens to be nearly three times the population of my entire home state.

Graduate school is often the answer I give.  I had finished my bachelor's degree and wanted more education and I ended up in school in New York City.

Sometimes, people will ask how I chose the school from which I went on to receive my Master's education.

"Well, I was looking at a number of schools, and weighing the pros and cons and this one was the right one for me," I'll tell them, occasionally filling in what that process looked like--getting recommendations from my academic adviser on what schools might offer the academic rigor I desired, narrowing the options down, praying and praying and praying, feeling called to the school I would eventually attend and choosing from there.

If I really trust them, I'll tell them the whole truth.

I cast lots.  And I stacked the odds against the school to which I felt called, because I did not want to go.

I hated the idea of living in New York City, 1,000 miles from anything familiar.  1,000 miles from the only thing I'd ever known.  1,000 miles from rich, black earth, and thunder storms, and wide open spaces, and blue skies.  A world of steel and glass and concrete and hustle and bustle and 8 million people shoving their way through life.  As an introvert who greatly values her time alone, away from crowds, with the option to walk by a lake or along a wooded path, the notion of moving to a large city was horrifying.

I took the six schools I was considering and wrote the name of each of five of these schools on 10 slips of paper, each, and placed them in a bag.  I wrote the name of the sixth school on a single slip of paper and tossed it in.  I shook it up and reached inside.  1:51.  Those are long odds when every other school has a 10:51 chance.  I pulled out the school I'd put in a single time.

Well, I thought to myself, that simply isn't going to work.  Dumb luck.

I put the slip back in, and shook the bag.  I reached in and pulled out....  The same damn slip of paper.

Okay,  One more time!  Dropped it back in, shook the bag, reach inside and....FUCK!

I threw the piece of paper away because by now, I was sure that my fingers were feeling the difference between this over-handled slip of paper and the rest which seemed not to want to be held at all.  I wrote the name of the school on a new slip of paper, added it to the bag, shook it up, and...

I gave up and attended the school in New York City which was on the bottom of my list, and only there because I felt called to go there, despite my best efforts to convince myself and God otherwise by casting lots.

Casting lots to determine something as important as where you will spend the next three years in a master's program is probably foolish, but it worked for me.

In hindsight, I do not know if I could have finished a graduate program anywhere else in the world.  I do not know if my life could have been as profoundly impacted by anyone else in the world as it was by those I met in New York City.

Proverbs 16:33 reads:
The lot is cast into the lap,
     but its every decision is from the Lord.
 I suppose this is as true as anything.

I do not make a habit of casting lots.  I tend to think that careful planning and thoughtful decisions that take all factors into consideration, and lots of prayer for the big ones, is the best way to make life choices.  The idea that a roll of the dice or the drawing of a slip of paper from amongst a pot of 51 slips identical in size and shape can somehow communicate the will of God is foolish.

Call me a fool.  It worked out once, eight years ago, and my whole life looks radically different, and I am more myself than I have been since the age of five because of that slip with three letters on it.

Still, I think it would be foolish to cast lots again or put any stock in their answer.  And I should probably avoid Magic 8 balls.

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