In a world where celebrities and tastemakers are constantly captioning their photos of exotic locales or free goodies with “#blessed,” it’s hard not to feel like the rest of us—the plebes—are perhaps lacking in that department. Even if you’re by no means struggling, and in fact pretty damn comfortable when compared to most of the world, it’s hard to fully eclipse those occasional, niggling moments that highlight all that you don’t have. Rather than thinking about what makes us incredibly lucky, it’s easier and more compelling to think about what we desire—everything out there that, we convince ourselves, would make our lives better: the impromptu vacations to warmer climes, the perfectly curated minimalist wardrobe that is decidedly less minimal in price, an eternally flat tummy, a doting lover with an overly Instagram-worthy face, and on and on and on.
I fall into this trap too often, I think, and am constantly trying to reverse it—to remind myself that such self-indulgent pity parties are a gross waste of my time. A recent surge of gratefulness had me questioning what I was doing right this time, how I had managed to stop staring blue-eyed and bored into my non-navel and looking up to appreciate the larger picture at play. It occurred to me that I wasn’t necessarily doing anything different, but that I had simply picked up on a trend involved in whatever recent luck I’ve had. That luck, it seems, has derived directly from a string of happy accidents that have taken place in my life over the past few years—chance meetings that have led to either new friendships or mentor relationships, or the rekindling of old ones that had faded away.
At the time of their happening, none of these situations seem that significant, but in reflecting on them, it’s easy to pinpoint how rewarding they’ve really been. And by rewarding, I don’t necessarily refer to something concrete, but the simple reality that these people have enriched my life significantly, have opened my mind to things or ways of thinking that I might not have come across otherwise. One of the biggest gifts, and it’s a selfish one for sure, is how these once-strangers have helped me strengthen my own self-perception. There’s something about newer companions really believing in you and what you do that is slightly more effective than when it comes from people who have known and loved you forever. I don’t want to discount that that’s meaningful too—but those perspectives can come to feel like a comfortable given, the familiarity of them negating their ability to really move us in any significant way.
To get a sense of how subtle or seemingly small these happy accidents can be, here’s a quick run-down of the ones that have been swirling in my head lately:
- A little over a year ago I wrote a piece for The Man Repeller, which in turn caused a once very good friend to contact me after we hadn’t spoken in years. Today I consider her, once again, a best friend–and possibly the most supportive one I have [which is saying A LOT because all my friends rock]–and am SO happy she’s back in my life. Who knows if that would have happened sans that random piece of writing to bridge the gap?
- Around the same time I went on an unexciting Tinder date, which led to me befriending one of said-date’s pals. Today he’s one of the most interesting, passionate people I know, and someone who instantly felt like a very old friend. See, bad Tinder dates can have their perks!
- When I was working at Harper’s Bazaar, I met a cool lady freelancer who I then stayed in touch with. Because she’s an awesome human, she gives me great advice on #thatfreelancelife and, bless her soul, occasionally reads my word vomit. Apparently she liked some of it enough to ask me to write something for Time—AKA the coolest little moment in my writing life so far. It’s not lost on me that her belief in me made that happen.
These are just three gems in a handful of others. The results aren’t really tangible: they haven’t made me rich or afforded me the freedom to travel to my heart’s content, but they have made the last year of my life so much more rewarding than it would have been otherwise. It may seem silly on the surface, a little trite perhaps, to try to plumb your life for these happy accidents in an effort to, well, stay happy—but recent experience tells me that the resulting gratefulness is totally worth it.