Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Where I Need to Be

Douglas Adams would have been sixty-two years old today, if he were still alive. Unfortunately, he died thirteen years ago, at the all-too-young age of forty-nine. (I judge anything younger than my current age as "all too young" and, to paraphrase Tom Lehrer, when Douglas Adams was my age he'd been dead for ten years.)

Adams was not a prolific writer, but what few works he left us were chock-full of some of the most brilliant, witty turns of phrase since Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. For instance, there's this gem from The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul:

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."

It's a quotation that particularly resonates with me, for I have never been any good at making plans. I have always believed that, in the words of Robert Burns:
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Which I took to be Scottish for "No matter what you do, you'll probably just end up getting eaten by a cat or caught in a mousetrap, so why bother?"

By my senior year in high school, I still had not figured out what I was going to do with my life. (I had barely figured out what I was doing in high school.) When forced to choose a career, I decided on the medical profession because I enjoyed biology class and I figured saving lives was a good thing to do. When forced to choose a college, I told the guidance counselor I would prefer a small southern school—small because my high school was enormous and I hated it, southern because my father's office would soon be relocating from Chicago, Illinois, to Parkersburg, West Virginia.

The guidance counselor came up with three small southern schools known for their pre-med programs. After looking at pictures of the three campuses, I chose Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, because I thought it had the most appealing architecture.

Wake Forest University

I have always been partial to Georgian architecture.

I soon discovered that I could barely manage the biology courses required for a
pre-med degree, and I was completely hopeless at chemistry. I decided to leave Wake Forest and try to figure out something I could do with my life that did not involve atoms and valences.

Although I had not been at Wake Forest long, I had been there long enough to make a life-long friend. In H. David Hawthorne, I found a kindred spirit who shared my appreciation for theatre (with an 're'), British humour (with a 'u'), classical music, and beer (not necessarily in that order). Our friendship lasted from our freshman year at Wake Forest until Dave passed away eight years ago, at the all-too-young age of fifty.

About thirty years ago, Dave and his then-fiancee Claudia threw a party so that all of their friends could meet. At that party, I had the good fortune to be partnered with Claudia's pretty friend Loretta Wong in a game of Trivial Pursuit. Within a year, we were partnered again on the dance floor at Dave and Claudia's wedding. Within two more years, we were partnered for life.

I may not have gone where I intended to go in my life (or even known where that was), but, thanks to a random chain of events which began with a slight preference for Georgian architecture, I ended up exactly where I needed to be.

Which is wherever Loretta is.