Monday, February 18, 2008

The Butterfly Effect

I found myself pondering today how the decisions we make alter the direction of our lives. How if we'd made this decision instead of that, perhaps our lives would different, and how much so ? How different would the decision have to be exactly ? As they say, a butterfly beats its wings and causes a tsunami halfway across the world - so do the tiniest of actions cause cataclysmic effects?

When i was in kindergarten, i sat next to a girl called Lauren. She was in and out of school because she suffered very badly from asthma and, after a 6 week absence, it was up to me, as a 5 yr old, to help her catch up. We became best friends pretty fast - you know how it is when your a little kid, you either love someone with everything you have, or hate them with a passion. Well i loved Lauren, she was my best friend ever, and we remained that way all the way up until the 5th Grade. At this point in my life, at 10 years old, it fell on me to make a pretty big decision. As i mentioned in my last post, i was Dux of my primary school, which meant i was a pretty intelligent kid.At a primary school across town they were putting together a class for " gifted " children, for kids whose intellect, whose intelligence, was considered to above average for their ages - a class that would take all those kids and put them together and nurture their intellects by teaching them more than just standard primary school Math and English. After taking an aptitude test, i was invited to join this class. My parents and spoke with my teachers and they encouraged me to go for it. Ultimately, my parents felt it best that i make the final decision and, being an impressionable 10 year old girl at the time, i decided i would learn just fine where i was and i didnt want to abandon my best friend in the whole wide world. I couldnt do that.

So i said no, i didnt want to be part of the gifted class, and i satyed where i was. This left a gap in the gifted class's numbers and guess who filled it ? My best friend Lauren. Thats right - the very person i had given up my opportunity for is the one who would be filling my shoes. I dont know if the final decision on whether she should go came down to her or her parents, but either way i could help feeling abandoned. Betrayed. Hurt.

If i had taken that opportunity, where would i be know ? Would i have been nurtured mentally, and made to feel that my intelligence wasnt something that should be hidden for the sake of appearing cool ? Surely i would have entirely different set of friends and, thusly, a completely different mindset. The girls that i know that ended up in that class have all been to university and have all travelled; they've now completed degrees and i am sure have far more interesting and stimulating jobs than mine. Would i be in their shoes if i'd made a different decision?

Conversely, what if Lauren had made a different decision ? What if she had stayed on at our school ? Would we still be best friends - currently we are not really in contact, she has had her own share of mental issues as far as i'm aware, and i'd love desperately to catch up with her - which means i would be best friends with Peta? Would we have gone through high school liking the same things, sharing, been joined at the hip> or would we still have drifted apart over time?

I dont like to dwell too much on these things, because rather than just be a fascinating subject on which to ponder, it becomes a source of frusturation, of depression even. Having sat and typed this out, having thought it over most of the afternoon, it is not hard to see where my intense social anxities came from. I always wanted everyone to like me and have never been able to put complete trust in any of my friends. Even know, on the eve of my best friends wedding when she trusts me implicitly with every detail of her life, i find it incredibly hard to open completely up to her, and only skim the surface of the truth.

Their are positives though - had i made a different decision it is likely i would not have the three close friends i have now, the three women i am eternally grateful for. I may not be as close to my family, as i may have gone of to uni, never to return. I may not appreciate the value of things i have, because i might not have had to work as hard for them.

So was my 10 year old's reasoning the beat of a butterfly's wings , and does that make what my life is now a tsunami, of sorts?


  1. i can't believe how much you've opened yourself up to this one. But this is exactly the kind of thing I am trying to impress upon you. Its your decisions, other people's decisions, everyone around you and their reaction to your decisions and the decisions that come from those reactions to those decisions that determine what happens to you (the development of a tsunami etc). NOT some pre-determined destiny that just needs to be played out, leaving us as mere pawns in a stalemate game of chess against an invisible (and unmoving) opponent.

  2. Wow, you were really blindsided by your friend Lauren taking your place.

    I can see how this became a decision you regretted intensely.

    I think it also comes down to the type of parenting you received. Your parents should not have adopted a hands-off approach to this important decision and allowed you to make the final choice. They should have encouraged you to seek a better academic future for yourself.

    It's not too late for you to get a degree, though.

    I think your life would be vastly improved if you left your small town and moved to a large city. Find a better well paid position and study part time for a degree.

    Find yourself a nice husband too. If you are happily married, you will feel your life has more purpose and you will be a happier person. Just choose a good husband.

    I think you're a wonderful woman, Amy, with a lot to offer the world.


  3. Sonny - yes, i see what your trying to impress upon me, and i appreciate it. I guess its just hard to accept sometimes that you are the only person who really controls you. It would be so much easier to blame some unseen force...i'm working on getting my head in that kind of space, ok?

    Richard - i thank you muchly for that comment. I'd like to think i'm a wonderful woman, working on being even better. But i dont think the way i was parented has anything much to do with it. I suppose the ultimate decison wasnt left to me, it would have been more like me saying i really didnt want to go, i dont want to leave my friends, my comfort zone, and my parenst decideding that ultimately it was best that i didnt. My parenst have always encouraged me to seek out what makes me happy, what brings me joy and makes me a better person, whether it meant going to uni for an education, or working in a " lesser " job so that i could travel the world.

    I love my parents and fully appreciate their impact on my life, i just dont think that in this instance they've done anything wrong.

  4. I think he's saying that it was a decision a 10 year old really doesn't have the perspective or knowledge to be able to make. And I most definitely agree.

    On the other hand, yes get married be happy, but if you aren't happy in yourself first you won't be happy after. Make sure you are marrying for the right reasons and not to give you purpose in life.

  5. I think the last person who would get married for anything other than love - anybody got some nice, single male friends?