You’re gonna end up doing something else


I rode the university shuttle the other day with a graduating senior, who’d overheard me telling someone one of my interminable Peace Corps stories. She asked me questions about my Peace Corps experience as we rode, and demonstrated considerable interest. “It’s a shame,” she said. “I was actually thinking that the Peace Corps might be something I could do after graduation. But there was a guy at our career fair talking about the Peace Corps, and he was terrible! He was big and fat, and he went on and on about what a terrible time it was, and how you had to be firm, and just tell people what to do – “ She made a face. “He made it sound really unpleasant.”



I silently cursed the fat stupid man at the career fair. “No,” I said. “It’s different for everyone. When I first interviewed, in Boston in 1983, the interviewer told me: ‘Whatever it is you think you’re going to be doing, you’ll end up doing something else.’ And he was right. I went over to do business consulting for fisheries cooperatives in Morocco; I ended up working in a computer center in Tunisia, translating documents and figuring out how to use pirated software. I had a wonderful time. Most of the time.” Thoughtfully I left out the occasional moments of political unrest and upheaval.



I kept thinking about this after I got off the shuttle. “Whatever it is you think you’re going to be doing, you’ll end up doing something else.” Isn’t that the truest thing you’ve ever heard? That’s human life, in a nutshell.



I suppose there are a few people who decide at an early age that they want to be lawyers or mimes or radiologists, and they set their sights on their goals, and they attain them. They create their own destinies, or their destinies create them, I don’t know which. And good for them.



I know only that I, like most of us, have been tossed to and fro in the great river of life, and it has not been terrible. It has been, for the most part, a good time. If I hadn’t gone to grad school at Brown in 1978, I wouldn’t have ended up in Providence, and I wouldn’t have met Partner in 1995, and that would never do.



I respect the people who swim purposefully down the river of life, headed in their own karmic directions. But I’m happy floating on my beach raft, with my umbrella and book and coconut-shell cocktail, letting the current take me where it will.



Probably down the waterfall, eventually.



But hey! As Peter Pan said: “Probably Death will be an awfully big adventure.”




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