The best things in life don’t follow a script

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When I was in the second grade, my class teacher, let's call her Maggi ma'am, did something seemingly arbitrary.

She took one look at my friend and me and said our names out loud to another teacher, let's call her Susie ma'am, who had come into our classroom for whatever reason.

She said it softly and it didn't even register in our minds.

I looked up curiously as any 7 year old would.

I didn't know what had happened exactly but after a few minutes, my friend and I were asked to follow this Susie ma'am into a different classroom.

Susie ma'am was tall but not scary like Maggi ma'am. I liked her.

I was excited because my friend and I were pulled out in the middle of an ongoing class to go somewhere with another teacher.

And while we followed Susie ma'am, she picked up a few more students from the other classrooms we were walking past.

And so we went, our little hands behind our backs, walking quickly so we could keep pace with our rather tall teacher who was walking so briskly that I was afraid that her kitten heels might break from all the clacking!

I was anxious, thinking about what my friend and I had possibly done to be singled out like this. But the teacher didn't look angry so I was reassured that whatever it was it couldn't possibly be so bad.

What felt like an eternity later, all of the various students plucked from various classrooms were assembled in an empty classroom.

I saw that the students were from different grades. My friend and I were the youngest ones there.

"Just what is going on?", I wondered, trying to look calm when suddenly Sister Josie walked in.

She pulled out a neat looking black book, handed it to Suzie ma'am and gave a little nod while saying something that didn't make too much sense to any of us.

And while Suzie ma'am began to use a piece of chalk to write down something on the board from that book, Sister Josie called our attention to her and began to hum a tune.

She then asked us to repeat the tune and we did, still not having the slightest clue what was going on.

We sang and sang this melodious tune which was quite unlike anything I'd ever heard. There was something magical about that whole experience.

When finally Susie ma'am was done writing on the chalkboard, Sister Josie turned our attention to the board.

In big letters, Susie ma'am had written these words there.

“You spoke a word and stirred a silent spring,

You touched my heart and I began to sing

To free the music deep in everything

Now all the earth with its innate melody has meaning for me forever”

Sister Josie then asked us to sing these words in the tune she'd taught us.

She sang a line or sometimes even just half a line so we could register it. We'd have to sing it back as a group to her.

I didn't understand the point of this at all but those few fleeting moments of having sung something in a big group not caring about anything else for a few minutes became a defining moment for me for the next few years of my life.

I explored the experience taking in whatever I could; forgetting the words while paying attention to the melody, and forgetting everything once I got home from school and having a mini panic attack about it - not even because the teachers might be mad that I'd forgotten, but because forgetting that song was like losing a new toy. No, more than that, it was as though I craved being able to feel whatever I was feeling when I sang.

And forgetting the melody or the words was as painful as having lost the sense of taste or the sense of smell.

We all met Sister Josie again every day for about an hour or so and we all sang the same song every day, multiple times without ever knowing what the point of it was.

In fact, while I understood each word of the song, I never understood what the whole song even meant.

It seemed esoteric to a 7 year old me which simply amplified the appeal of the entire process.

Hours would pass and I wouldn't notice because I was caught up in how wonderful it felt to be wrapped in the warm hug of musical notes and the chorus of my schoolmates singing the same notes and the same lyrics.

Maybe I didn't understand the meaning of the song but the experience of singing it had its own meaning for me.

And all of this happened by sheer chance.

That's the thing with life.
The best things happen when you aren't expecting them.

Or even rather, things happen that you think very little of, but these little things end up becoming defining moments of your life and lead you down a path that you'd never have considered consciously.

The whole big picture may not be explained to you but there will be things that happen to you where you'd rather not care about the big picture and just let yourself swim in the details and intrepidly explore the rich landscape of the new adventure you've been thrown into.

And I think that is what we find difficult to do as we get older.

Unexpected changes are almost always perceived as bad things.

At work, when we’re pulled into new assignments which aren’t part of our 'script’ or plan, our first reaction is to balk at it and prevent it from happening.

When in life something unexpected happens, we are so quick to write it off as bad luck and cling desperately to the notion that whatever we had planned for ourselves is the best outcome that can materialise.

That sense of openness and wonder just seems to fade away over time, and soon there's just too much going on that feeling these little joys or allowing ourselves these little liberties to try something new simply to taste what it feels like seems like a childish, even irresponsible thing to do.

It's not wrong you know.

It's not wrong to retain that unadulterated naiveté and sense of wonder that informed our decisions when we were younger. To feel like trying new things that weren't in our plans wasn't a total waste of time. We're all born with it and we forget to use it over time.

But that doesn't mean it isn't there anymore.

All you have to do is open up and look.

Look inside yourself and unbind the shackles that you wear proudly and call them various names, "adulthood", "priorities", "work"... Whatever.

Allow yourself some playtime. It's good for your soul.

Make time to do things without thinking of the payoffs and if something feels tentative and interesting, it's okay to jump in.

Don't let your fear stop you from falling down a rabbit hole that may lead to a beautiful destination.

It's better to take that chance than risk never venturing to find out. It won't always turn out exactly as you expect it but maybe, just maybe, it'll turn out much better and it may be exactly what you didn't know you needed.

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

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