Serendipity

Serendipity: the occurrence or development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

Several days ago when my family and I were driving to Glacier National Park in Montana, while we were in a middle of nowhere in a lonely highway, we came to a site that was unexpected, at least for us. We had to stop and enjoy the view, for just a little longer.

Of course we were expecting great views in Glacier National Park, a wilderness in Montana’s Rocky Mountains, known to be one of the most picturesque landscapes in North America (I’ll make a separate post about Glacier National Park later, I promise).

However, while we were still hours away to our destination, we serendipitously saw this field full of bright yellow flowers with the snow-capped mountains seen from the distance. It was  just us and some bees on that field.

IMG_3017

a field somewhere in Montana

Later on we learned that they are canola plants, the source of canola oil, and are commonly farmed in this part of the US. We were just not familiar with them. But still, I think you’d agree that it was such a beautiful sight, right?

Sometimes in life, there are things or events that we are not expecting, but happen as a pleasant surprise. Of course the opposite is true as well, when we have such high expectations and then we become extremely disappointed by the turn of events. We even have a law for that – the Murphy’s law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

Well, back to the positive side of things, there are also “mistakes” that turned out to be just right. The discovery of Penicillin and the development of Post-it are prime examples.

Are there really fortunate happenstance?

When I was applying for Internal Medicine residency training program after I graduated from medical school in the Philippines, I sent out more than 50 application letters to different universities and hospitals in the United States.

A classmate of mine who was also applying, gave me a list of US hospitals and universities that would likely accept foreign medical graduates like us. I am not sure where he got this list, but that was an era before the heyday of the internet, whereas now you can “google”just about anything.

The list that he gave me was scribbled in a hospital’s pad paper with a letterhead. So I sent applications to all those on the list. And for good measure, I also sent one to the hospital on the letterhead, even though it was not on the list. How did my friend got the stationery? I have no clue.

Out of more than 50 applications I sent, I received only 8 or 9 invitations for interview. I needed all those invitation letters to apply for a visa to enter the United States.

You know that traveling from Manila to USA cost a fortune, not to mention traveling to different States where those hospitals were located, and so with limited resources, I was forced to choose only 3 hospitals to go for an interview – all were in New Jersey and New York, and all within a train or a bus ride away from each other.

After all the interviews, each applicant would rank their preferred hospital or training program, while every hospital would also rank their chosen applicants out of the hundreds they interviewed. Then the National Resident Matching Program matches all applicants to training programs by using a mathematical algorithm. There’s always a chance that an applicant won’t be accepted nor matched.

Where did I end up matching and doing my training?

I matched at a hospital in New Jersey that was an affiliate of Columbia University. Though this hospital was not on the list that I was given. It is the one on the letterhead of the stationery with the list!

Serendipity? Maybe it is destiny.

*******

(*Photo taken with an iPhone)

Waiting in Line

It’s 2014. Happy New Year!

During the New Year celebration in New York City, a million or more people flocked in Times Square to watch the fancy ball drop and ring in the new year. It was reported that many people began waiting and standing in the streets in TImes Square starting around noontime, to get a good location to see the ball drop, the fireworks, and the rest of the show. That’s about 12 hours of waiting and standing in the cold! Was it worth it?

In our recent trip to a theme park, it was so crowded as it was the holiday season. It was jam packed that we could hardly walk anywhere without pushing, shoving, or trampling somebody. It could rival a walk in Divisoria. And the lines to the attractions were ridiculously long that can push the limit of patience in any human being.

The only consolation in these long lines was that they post how long was the wait time – like 45 minutes, or 120 minutes, or gazillion minutes (!) – to the ride or show, so that you have some idea of how long your agony would be. They should post the wait time in the restrooms as well, as there were long lines there too!  How could this be the “happiest place on earth?”

IMG_3096

In one popular ride of the park, our resolve was tested when we stood in line for it. We tried to get a *fast pass, but the time it gave us to return was close to midnight! We may not even stay in the park by then, so we took our chances and waited in line. And we waited. And waited.

The line was long and winding. On top of this, a long portion of the wait, we were cramped in a dark, enclosed place, with hardly any “personal” space. If the theme of that particular attraction was going to outer space, they were succesful in mimicking that environment, as I felt there was not enough atmospheric oxygen for me to breathe. Perhaps more people got dizzy and light-headed while waiting in line than in the ride itself.

After standing in line for more than 2 hours, we finally got to experience the “thrilling” ride. All the 2 minutes of it. Yes, you read it right. A measly 2 minutes! Was it worth it?

Our real life experiences though involves the humdrum of waiting in line. We stand in line for the bus or the train to take us places we want to go. We wait in line when we apply for a certificate, or a license or even for a job, so we can do things we want to do. We stand in line in stores or groceries so we can get things we like or need. In almost anything we do we wait in line.

In truth we have even mastered the art and science of waiting in line. When you line for the check out counter, do you count how many people are lined up in the different lanes, or better yet even count how many items each person have in their grocery cart in front of you, to make sure you line up in the shortest and fastest lane? Guilty, huh?

Then, there are people who wait in line for their destiny to come. Like princes and princesses, waiting for their moment of prominence.

Prince Charles is standing in line, to be the next monarch for more than 60 years! And that is if his mother, the current queen, will not outlive him. Some even feel that he should give way the throne to his son, Prince William, who is younger and more popular. But that is a different issue in itself.

What I am trying to say is this: in this life we wait for something grand to happen. Most of the time the wait is long, and the exciting event can be fleeting and short. Was it even worth it?

I don’t know what you are standing in line for. Maybe for that dream job. Or for your special someone. Or for that memorable occasion. Or that fateful event. Or your appointment with destiny.

I hope that this new year will bring in that event you are waiting for. And if not, just be patient. For I believe we are all destined for greatness. And it is worth the wait.

*****

(*Fast pass ticket allows a guest to avoid the long line by giving them a pre-set time to return to the particular attraction.)

(** photo taken with iPhone)