One Day I Will Rule the World

World Domination, Babies and Middle Eastern Dance

August 15, 2009

The Secret

When I tell the story of our buying this house, so many people have said, ‘well you know it was meant to be.’And other such-like things.

I tend to roll my eyes – but I don’t judge too harshly. This is what people do – we tend to personify the forces in our lives because it’s easier for us to conceptualize a personality than trends in data. Or that to our brains, a personality better represents the vagaries of real world trends – since, once you start considering data, you want absolute rules (which are so very rare).

I’ve even seen staunch evolutionists characterize evolution with a personality and a design. Ie, when someone says, ‘Well humans weren’t evolved to eat dairy.’ They’re implying that evolution has a plan for us with some rules that, if we know them and obey them, we will feel good and be healthy, but if we disobey them then we will be sick because it wasn’t what evolution intended for us. In reality, humans evolved to eat whatever they can eat. And if conditions change, for example wiping out what they customarily eat, then they will try eating other things in their environment and many of those things may be non-ideal. Still, whatever they were eating before may have been non-ideal. If it keeps them alive long enough to reproduce, that’s all that matters. And, while some tribe over the hill may be eating ideal foods and therefore reproducing more and having their offspring thrive better, there is no evolutionary guarantee that their foodsource won’t be depleted or wiped out by new conditions.

Still, if there are ideal foods (whose idealness depends on a synchronous dance of interspecies evolution), we will say ‘we were meant to eat a diet high in….’ as if some hand designed all of evolution just to provide us with foods meant for us. If you are religious, this is consistent. I’m just saying that even the very non-religious can’t help themselves, they characterize evolution as having an intelligence and they characterize the universe as being oriented to human health and continued existence.

Anyhow, I think about these things when I think about whether this house is meant to be. On the other hand, I do, very much, feel like I’ve had a charmed life. And things are always timed to be just as tight and wiggle-room free as they can be. Like, when I decided that Del and I should go back to school because I wanted to learn web design, I was so new to web that I didn’t realize that what I really wanted to learn was web programming.

I lucked out, I finished the web course in time to take the first run through of a programming course the technical college was piloting. But the instructor left at the end of it, leaving a less competent (reeeeeeally less competent) instructor to offer it the next term, and then dropped it entirely the following term. Basically, if I had not taken a notion to get into web right when I did, I would not have been able to learn web programming.

And I think about how when we moved into this house, we held onto the old house to fix it up before listing it so we could get as much as possible when we sold it. It needed some cosmetic stuff like refinishing the floors and new paint and light fixtures. Things that took more elbow-grease than money and would have a good return on the investment. But then the fixing up took so much longer than we projected (of course). And we ended up carrying two mortgages for about six months. Our realtor called at some point and said, “that house better be about done because I met with a guy who’s looking for something like it so I told him he could probably see it next week.” And so we hustled things along, doing more last minute stuff every day, even while it was on the market. I started my maternity leave a month before my due date and I spent that month over at the old house every day. We finally got an offer with a quick possession date. And then I went into labour and had Hannah on the Tuesday before the possession date (which was on a friday). I opted to get released from the hospital the next morning after having Hannah instead of staying the three days they recommend. And so I came home and had a pizza supper with the kids Wednesday night, and that allowed Ian to spend all of Thursday cleaning out the old house so we would be done with it for Friday. Afterwards we were like, “we really could not have timed that any better if we’d tried.”

But then, thinking of these things as synchronicity may be like having a drop of water and an ocean. And when that drop of water rolls into the ocean and feels like, “here is where I was meant to end up” looking back on its entire journey and saying, “well if I hadn’t bounced off that particular pebble, I would never have come down this side of the hill.” Perhaps the truth is that the only thing that makes my getting into web programming lucky is that I am fundamentally suited to web programming, and love it. And so any path that got me into it, I would have seized on and I would have felt at the time as if I were rolling downhill. And, as to the house, we are the kind of people who never would have had the house done until someone said we had to. And who never would have had the house empty until right before the possession date. Thus everything feels like it’s been cut so close that only fate could have allowed us to actually accomplish it.

Really though, it feels to me like the people who tell me that it’s meant to be are saying it because it establishes a narrative that is comforting to them about their own situation. I know a lot of people who have not bought a house, who complain that they can’t buy a house because they can only afford so much and they’re just not willing to live anywhere on the west side. Seriously, an actual lot of people.

And, I mean, you have to know what you want and what you’re willing to live in and what you’re not. But on the other hand, to those people who look on us as lucky and say, “oh well you know this was meant to be,” I want to point out that we would not remotely be anywhere near where we are if we were not the kind of people who were willing to settle, to do anything as long as it’s something closer to what we want than where we were last. I pushed my mum to help me and Del buy an 800 square foot house in the cheapest part of Caswell (a west side neighbourhood) when I was 22. It wasn’t much of a house, it stretched our budget to its limit. Stuff broke because it was a 90 yr old house and then we had no money to fix it. But ultimately, it meant that I had an asset and that asset gave me so much more flexibility. When I separated from Del I was able to renegotiate a loan in relation to it to extend the term, and that cut my expenses significantly. I never could have done that if I’d been renting. When I needed some money a couple of years later, I was able to refinance the house. And when we needed to move into a bigger house, it had about doubled in value because I’d been there for seven years. A lot of that was luck in timing and in the market. But I wouldn’t have had any of that luck if I had spent my life thinking I wasn’t going to buy anything until I could buy a “good” house.

Furthermore, Ian and I are the kind of people who can settle for whatever’s available to us, and just get excited about the potential in it. We like a project. Over the last two years, we’ve often discussed getting out of this house and into a house that’s more “us” and where we want to be for a long time. Every time, we would look at listings and find at least a couple of houses that we were really excited about, going, “this one. OMG THIS one looks SO PERFECT for us.” And finally I was like, “you know what? We find something perfect for us every time we look. So, maybe we should relax about it and trust that we are the kind of people who can find something with potential and get excited about it whenever it is the right time to make this move.”

But you can see that no matter when we moved, and no matter what house we bought, there would have been plenty in there for us to be SO excited about it as to justify saying that clearly this house was so perfect for us that it had to have been fate that got us there.

I don’t want to downplay how lucky we’ve been. I mean, in the first place we were lucky enough to have been born white, pretty middle class and in North America. That first piece of luck right there brings all sorts of further luck into your life.

But the other part of it is that, for a number of reasons that are probably other blog posts in and of themselves, I don’t like a deterministic approach to life. The biggest reason is that I mostly see people use it for moral laziness. It absolves them of responsibility when they don’t actively change their lives, because they are clearly where they’re meant to be. When they determine that a path they originally chose is more work than they anticipated, then instead of saying, “I’ve changed my mind. I didn’t foresee this and I don’t want it after all,” (which, though hard, is entirely reasonable) they can say, “the universe is showing me that it wasn’t meant to be.” And when something is just a result of “white North American luck” they can feel deservist about it, like the universe gave them this thing because they are meant to have it.

On the other hand, I am human enough that I quite frequently can’t resist personifying my luck as having a benevolent intelligence. It’s awfully hard to live in a universe that you believe to be indifferent to you.

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  1. scheherezhade

     /  2009-08-18

    I was reading an article the other day where some scientists have concluded that the reason that the Neanderthals became extinct was that there were several rapid extreme climate changes in a very short period of time, from extreme cold to hot and back again, so that although the Neanderthals managed to adapt to the first of the changes, losing only some of their number, then something else would change, which would wipe out some more of them, until there were too few left to come back from the brink. Even while the homo sapiens over the hill were managing to keep adapting one step ahead of the changes. I bet those poor buggers of Neanderthals thought the universe was making a determined effort to get rid of them. Assuming they used those kinds of narratives.

    Maybe that’s why we have so many climate change deniers today. Because we already survived some extreme changes, so clearly the universe couldn’t be out to wipe us out that way.

    And speaking of cutting things fine, I still wish Hannah had held off for one more day so that we could have seen Tool in concert — but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

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