Sunday, September 1, 2013

Day 28: Chances (AKA "How I Met Your Father")

Think about all the little things that got you to where you are now.

Think about every opportunity you got that seemed to fall into your lap. Think about all the things that could've gone differently. If you had been just a second later, or earlier. If you had talked with person A over person B. Think about how incredibly low the odds are that you would ever be where you are now.

Once upon a time, Facebook was a brand new tool for college students to make friends and meet up. I know that sounds as sketchy as finding a date off of Myspace, but, back in 2005, that is what you did. You found people who were in the same dorm as you, who were taking the same classes as you...shit, you'd friend people because they joined the same groups as you (this was back when groups were exclusive to their respective colleges). It was a way to find your footing in a completely new environment.

Just before move-in, I got a friend request from a guy named Rob. He messaged me, telling me that we're going to be living on the same floor in the same building. I was a little confused, as I didn't think floors were co-ed, but I was down with it.

Again, think about all the little things that got you to any particular point in your life. Because Rob and I didn't actually live on the same floor together. We lived in the same dorm *hall*, but in different towers. We became friends because of this lack of knowledge.

But what awesome friends we became. He introduced me to a girl -- Erica -- who lived in the same tower as him, but on the floor below him. My entire freshman year was defined by my friendship with these two people. Granted, it was also defined by an aforementioned self-absorbed frat boy and a slew of dating slip-ups that I'll get into later, but, for the most part, when I look back on my freshman year, I think about our dynamic friendship.

Rob had a love for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, so he decided to introduce us to it. We'd trek out to Harvard Square every Saturday and scream obscenities at the screen and had an absolute amazing time.

Think about all the things that needed to fall into place for you to be where you are now. Think about all the paths your life could've gone had just one little thing had gone differently. I met a certain someone on the very first day of move-in my freshman year. A shy kid that we will call Daniel. For me, it was love at first sight. For him, it was something to do between rushing for a fraternity and flirting with the idea of getting back with his ex-girlfriend. It was unhealthy and one-sided and it wasn't until sometime in January, when he showed up to a lunch date with hickeys (poorly hidden hickeys) on his neck that I realized I needed to stop it.

And so I did. I ignored his drunken phone calls, I eschewed any more lunch or dinner dates. I started dating other people.

That alone became a comedy of errors. I "played the field" for a grand total of a month and a half, with hilarious (if not horrific) results. I had one boy (let's call him Tate) who lived an hour away but wanted me to commute out from Boston every weekend to see him. I had another boy (Jed? Let's call him Jed. If only because I forget his real name) downright lie to me about going to med school (even though he hadn't finished his bachelor's yet) in an effort to get me to hang out with him. And not just any med school: John Hopkins, one of the best in the country. When I called him out on lying about med school, he lost his mind and never talked to me again. I started hooking up with an absurdly pretty guy who was across-the-board fabulous. My gaydar lit up like a Christmas tree around him, but, hey, a hook-up was a hook-up and I wasn't going to turn down someone that good looking.

I then proceeded to get stood up an astounding 5 times by 3 separate boys. If you're doing the math, that means two of those buggers rescheduled, only to not show up again. The last of these 5 happened on Valentine's Day. I waited in the lobby of my dorm, sending texts to a certain boy, angry as all hell that he was giving me the runaround. I eventually gave up, when to my room, and had a good cry. I decided then and there that I was truly, truly done with guys. I had a GPA to maintain (lest I lose my scholarship). I was focusing way too much on boys. I had had my fill of them and was a-okay with waiting until graduation to start dating again.

Cut to across the Charles. It's the first day of fall classes at MIT and my husband is entering his senior year for the second time. He was originally scheduled to graduate in '03, but MIT prides itself on kicking ass in a pretty ruthless way. He went on leave during his first senior year and returned home for a few years. He came back, got back into the swing of things, and was ready to graduate in June.

A weekend after Valentine's Day, Erica's sister came to town. Our Rocky Horror trips were getting a little more sporadic (if only because cab fare back to campus was a sonuvabitch), but we decided to introduce Erica's sister to Rocky Horror. That Saturday, we did our usual routine: we went to a hockey game, we went to Fire & Ice for dinner, and we went to Rocky Horror.

That same night, one of my husband's college friends was performing her very first role in Rocky Horror. His entire group of friends went in support.

My group of friends filled up the row, leaving one seat empty between me and the wall. My husband's group of friends filled up the row behind me, with one person leftover.

My husband saw me, saw the back of my head, and declared, "Well, looks like it's time to make a new friend." He then jumped over a row of seats, landed in the seat beside me, and said, "Hi, would you like to be my new friend?" I smiled and kept to myself.

One of the crew came out, informing us that they were having technical difficulties with the sound. This gave us extra time to talk. My resolve was still unshakable: the last thing I wanted to do was get involved with another boy who would hook up with his ex behind my back, or another boy who would leave me hanging on Valentine's Day. But there was something about him that hooked me in. And the more we talked, the more I wanted to get to know him.

I can't stress enough: think about all the little things. Think about how one little change in events could've transformed everything.

If Daniel had been even a little bit nicer to me. If Tate was a little less needy. If I didn't get stood up on Valentine's Day and instead had a wonderful date with my next future boyfriend. If Rob realized that there were two towers to the dorm halls and never friended me. If Erica's sister decided to wait a week before coming to Boston. If my husband had graduated on time. If his college friend had started Rocky Horror a week earlier.

Sometimes you can't help but feel like life will pull out all the stops to make certain things happen. We let the old lady go in front of us in line and, because of that extra time, we miss a horrible car accident on our way back home. We look for a job on whim, only to find the perfect position for us.  We go out with someone who is totally wrong for us, and break up just in time to meet the Right One.  And sometimes you go out with a chick, break up, meet her on the subway, find out about the girl's roomate's band, hire them for your friend's wedding (because the DJ cancelled last minute), and end up falling madly in love with the roommate, who you then marry and have kids with -- kids that you will tell an extraordinarily long conversation with about how you met their mother.

Spoiler alert for those who haven't watched the most recent season.

It's hard for me to believe that it was over 7 1/2 years ago that I met my husband in a little theatre in Harvard Square. The theatre has long-since closed down, with the Rocky Horror ensemble moving to downtown. Two graduations, five separate apartments, two cats, a slew of rodent pets, and a house in the country later, and we're still together. It might all be chance. It might all be preordained. But still -- look at what has made you, you. And realize how much of it is thanks to chance. And how absurdly unlikely it was that you would be exactly where you are today.

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