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.
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)