Are our lives governed by choice or fate?
It’s hard for me to pick a side, mostly because this is a competition between the vanity of choice and the evidence of fate, but it became easier for me thanks to a strange event that happened to me yesterday.
Yesterday was one of those days where little choices had a huge ripple effect for me.
I’ve been training for a Color Run in a nearby town that is 5k. So, everyday, I have been running in order to build up my endurance so that I can perform very well. Interestingly, I have no real motivations for why I am training so hard.
I am going with friends so there is no pressure to outrun anyone. I can already run the 5k without too much effort, yet oddly, I have made it a personal goal to perform beyond my usual expectations.
Enter the events of yesterday. I was tired, sore, and thinking about anything but running. I had already run the full 5k the day before, and I desired rest. I ran into an old acquaintance, however, who made a biting remark about my weight since I last saw him.
He claimed to be joking, but the remark sunk in all the same. I felt challenged to overcome my tiredness and prove this old friend wrong. I set out to run somewhere I had never run before.
Notice how choice and fate continue to string along here. I didn’t choose to have this friend challenge me. It just happened. Right place, right time. The rest of this story would never have happened had he not said anything.
I went to a nearby high school and used their track, late at night, to run for just half of the 5k. That seemed reasonable in my head, although I had no idea why I was bothering to run in that very place at that very peculiar moment.
I stretched and embarked on my run, constantly being faced with the choice of how long I should push myself. I was even tempted to quit early because someone was eyeing my bag that I left laying by the track field, and I was worried he would give in to temptation. Regardless, I made the uncharacteristic choice of pressing on.
Soon, my side started hurting. It turned out that I really was too sore to carry on, and I was on the brink of calling it a night. But some unexplainable force kept me going. I made a choice to keep going, despite the fact that I had no reason to make that choice.
As I was running, I noticed a group of three students playing tennis in the courts adjacent to the track. As I kept running, I kept diverting my attention to them, even though I wasn’t very curious.
As it turns out, I managed to run the entire 5k and broke my record for average time per mile. I was ecstatic that I had overcome my physical limitations and successfully pushed myself for the first time in a while.
Funny thing. I finished the run just as I was passing by the courts and was compelled to yell out to the group of three, asking if they needed a fourth player. They were inviting and asked me to join them.
It turns out that the tennis racket I’ve been keeping in my car for years (even though I never use it) finally came in handy, despite all the reasons in the world I had for leaving the thing at home.
I joined them on the courts and played for a good two hours. My partner and I even won 6 games to 5.
It was a great experience and I made some great friends, but I can’t shake just how powerless I felt when it came to how this event happened. Despite all of the reasons why I shouldn’t have made any of the choices I made yesterday, I still made them and it led to a fantastic event that I could have never predicted to happen.
I’ve never been one to care too much about free will and predestination. The idea of whether or not we really have control over our lives.
But I have to be honest and say that even though free will is a much more desirable philosophy, I can’t help but recognize the evidence that we are not the supreme arbiters of our own lives, even when we feel like we are.
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