Life’s Little (and Pretty Big) Surprises

What I love most about life are its surprises. I mean, if you had asked me 18 years ago where I’d be and what I’d be doing, I would have told you anything but what has actually transpired. 18 years ago I had just discovered the relatively new internet and had gotten hooked, so hooked that I was skipping college classes in order to sit in a chat room called #madlibs, playing insane madlibs games with people whose monikers resembled more closely barnyard animals than they did people (cowpie69, goatchee, and 16felix).

“I wonder why I failed those courses”

The key to winning the game was through the rounds. For each round the computer (its name was #madbot) gave us a fill-in-the-blank, and we each had to enter our best attempts at filling in that blank, using 10 words or less. Then we would vote and the one who had the most votes won. I know, pretty lame, but I fought hard every day from 11AM until 2PM (when I should have been in Economics, Art Theory, and Geography — I wonder why I failed those courses). I still remember, even now, the madlib I entered that won the most overall points for the day, and stood firm at #3 on the all-time list (yes, #madbot kept track. He was cool like dat). The madlib was “One thing I hope I never see is _________________________,” and I entered, “a New Kids on the Block reunion concert.” That one got me 23 votes out of the 25 people who were in the chat room. And yes, I am still insanely proud of that one (and yes, I did skip the NKOTB reunion show when it came through town). That enterprise ended when the semester did, and my mom found out I had been skipping classes. Oops. I’m sure they still miss me in #madlibs.

And if you had asked me 16 years ago, that was when I had graduated from chat rooms to email. No fewer than 10 emails from 10 different girls would sail through my inbox on any given day. But before you judge me, don’t forget I was 19 and had lived an incredibly sheltered life before the internet came along. Remember Word Perfect? I would craft each and every one of my email replies in that processing masterpiece before sending it along to each girl because I still didn’t quite trust that it would get there in one piece. It was so much magic, and I was reticent to fully embrace it, even when I was fully embracing it (irony is king in my world even now).

Even 10 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to envision this life. You see, that was when I married the woman of my dreams, a woman I met through — you guessed it — the internet. Little did I know that the medium that brought me #madlibs and email dalliances that were discarded once they got too personal, would also bring me my future wife, and the mother of my children. Ours was a relationship that began as a series of emails across several states, another testament to that still-new medium. Through that relationship I have learned so much, and I have been to so many places, both physical and otherwise. Surprises indeed.

26 years ago, I was baptized. A minister and his helper lowered me down under the water of the baptismal pool and I came up again a new being. At that time, I felt like I knew where I was going and what I was doing. The new lease on life extended to everything and everyone. I went home that day invigorated and ready for anything that could come. But then — surprise — my church burned down three years later, my faith was sorely shaken, I was forced to leave my private high school, and I began to question everything. Everything that once felt so solid was as sand in the wind.

What I love most about life are its surprises, even now, because it is through the surprises that I grow and understand more about life. If you had asked me just two months ago where I would be now, I wouldn’t have said that I would finish writing a novel in a month, or that I would have a blog with actual followers, but here I am. And I’m ready for the next surprise.


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