True Story: last year on June fifteenth I got in a car accident. This year on June fifteenth I got in another car accident. These experiences have taught me the valuable life lesson that I should never drive on June fifteenth, and they've also left me with a weird instinctual belief in the connectedness of technically-disconnected events.
While writing my senior thesis I learned a little bit about the practical utility of formulating personal life narratives. Basically, the idea is that even if things don't technically happen for specific reasons, people think narratologically and thus, tend to identify causal relationships between life events and attribute broad significance to individual occurrences. So, hypothetically, if you were in two car accidents that you could not have prevented on the same day of two consecutive years, you might, hypothetically, see these occurrences as important life events worthy of further consideration...hypothetically. We think this way to make sense of the chaotic world around us, to feel informed and comfortable amidst unpredictable circumstances, to make value judgments that help us decide how to navigate the present and plan for the future.
Thinking literarily (not to be confused with "literally"), this means each individual is kinda like the protagonist of his or her own story. And if there's anything we know about protagonists of stories, it's that when they decide to buy blue curtains, what they're really doing is exemplifying their deeply-held sorrow regarding the human condition, cloaking themselves in a shadow of the past, and submitting to the oppressive force of eternal misfortune. DUH !!!!1!!1
When analyzing "fine literature" or "high art", we (well, some of us at least) tend to attribute elaborate motives and meanings to a characters actions regardless of whether the author or artist intended to imbue the actions with significance. When we approach art with the assumption that it contains stuff of merit, we LOOK for symbolism and make connections between spatially and temporally-removed events.
Although attributions of value can certainly get a little (read, a lot) bullshitty, I'm actually not arguing against making them. I actually think there are lots of benefits to approaching our own lives with the assumption that they contain stuff of merit. Benefits like not succumbing to a self-destructive nihilistic philosophy, even if that means occasionally taking certain fortune cookie fortunes a little too personally. Even though we have little control over the external events that interrupt our insular narratives, we have control over how we respond to them. We can choose to incorporate dumb unavoidable bullshit into our life narratives by viewing it as "a wakeup call" or "a formative experience" or we can continue referring to it as "that thing that should never have happened to ME." The difference is that the first response has the potential to spur actual personal reflection and change, maybe even an eventual sense of accomplishment. The second...I dunno, a prolonged feeling of resentment and confusion? A scenario in which you're surrounded by boxes of half-eaten oreos watching re-runs of "The Bachelorette" and low-key afraid to get out of bed?
If you're wondering how I was able to provide such an oddly specific example, it's because I've been there. In scenario two. Around the time when I was in the first car accident, things seemed pretty meaningless. When it happened all I kept thinking was, whyyyyy is this happening to me? This was not part of the plan (not that I knew what the plan was, of course--I just knew it didn't involve a car accident). The most recent June fifteenth felt different, because a lot has changed in a year. Not in my circumstances, or surroundings, but in my attitude. Through a consistent effort to confront the things I was most afraid to encounter, to be honest with myself and others even when it rocked the boat, and to pursue the weird things I wanted, I've gained a stable kind of confidence and a general acceptance of the inherent (subjective) importance of my own experience. This is something I can only describe as a form of faith.
I definitely wish this car accident hadn't happened. Dealing with insurance companies and car people and my own lack of knowledge about cars (see phrase: "car people") is really frustrating and tedious and annoying and other negative adjectives. But the fact that the accident happened on the same day as the accident last year has prompted me to reflect on the differences between me-now and me-then. To think about the colossal amount of positive change that has happened in such a short period of time. Painstaking and uncomfortable change that has nevertheless enabled me to see this decidedly negative event as something that "just is" and can be a building block toward something better, rather than as a meaningless intrusion on my pre-structured life.
Even though my car is probably going to be scrapped, the ideas that it represent will continue to hold weight. Even if to other people it's all just a coincidence--even if it IS just a coincidence--that doesn't change the gut-sense of importance I feel yet cannot quantify.
And it doesn't change the fact that I'm not driving next June fifteenth.