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Fate, Grace, Karma

Fate, Grace, Karma

In Believe in Me, Tim Green ruminates on fate more than once as he explores his own belief system. “I’m nobody’s chess piece,” he declares, before turning around a few dozen pages later to admit that “saying that everything that had happened was simply a random string of events felt like the most irrational argument of all. Reason only gets you so far; sometimes the only logical thing left to do is to give in to wonder.”

And while that wasn’t intended as commentary on my own career, it applies; two of the best jobs I’ve ever held have had fluky pieces of happenstance attached to them.

In 1995-97 I was out on my own as a communications consultant, hustling for clients before and after briefly taking over an arts and entertainment newspaper (and launching my side career as a music writer). Just as my efforts began to pay off with steady project work, I spotted a promising-sounding ad in the newspaper for a position with a new, local non-profit. I applied and was asked to come in for an interview.

Now, in the days before smartphones, I relied on a physical desk calendar… a calendar I didn’t always check religiously when I arrived at my desk in the morning. The week of my interview I was working on projects for three different clients, and the interview itself was scheduled the same day as my wedding anniversary—auspicious, but also hazardous in terms of my level of distractedness. Around 3:05 that afternoon, while I was deep into finishing up one of said projects in an effort to free up my evening, the phone rang and I encountered an efficient secretarial voice: “This is _______ with _______. Were you coming in for your interview?”

My heart sank.

After listening patiently to my profuse apology, said secretary offered to reschedule the interview for the following week. “That would be great,” I said sheepishly, mentally crossing this job possibility off my list. I mean, who hires that guy—the one who doesn’t even bother to show up for the interview the first time around?

A week later I went in as relaxed and calm as I’ve ever been in an interview situation, certain there was no chance in hell I’d get the job. I sat down with my interviewer and within five minutes we were chatting away like old pals, which we very nearly were, having graduated from UC Davis’s political science program the same year. Not only did my interviewer hire me, we became good friends, which we are to this day. I stayed with the company for nearly nine years, the second-longest tenure of my career.

The longest tenure I’ve had anywhere is the job I’m in now—which I very nearly didn’t apply for.

I’d been off consulting again for much of 2008 when a recruiter called asking if I’d be interested in a position that wasn’t in the same area as the Sacramento home we had enjoyed for 20-plus years. “How far away is it?” I asked. “Monterey,” came the answer. I politely declined, put off by the distance and disruption a move would entail.

That evening as I recounted the call to my wife Karen, something in her expression gave me pause. “What?” I asked. “Do you remember,” she replied, “the conversation we had a week or so ago about places we’d consider moving once the kids are out of the house and off to college?” I did. Our youngest was entering his senior year, so the discussion had finally felt more than theoretical. “And do you remember the three places we agreed we’d consider moving to?”

I did. One of them was Monterey.

First thing the next morning, I called the recruiter back. Three months later I was offered the job, which I’ve held for nine and a half years now.

Both of these twists in my backstory required action on my part, as well as an openness to new experiences to make them happen. But both also had elements that in hindsight feel suspiciously like fate, or grace, or karma, or whatever name you may choose to give the hidden hand of the universe. Regardless, I’m grateful.


“I find it takes a pretty cooked shuffle to deal in absolutes
so I encourage you not to take what’s said between us
as proof of any universal truth
go ahead, if it comforts you to feel that cosmic forces
are operating in cahoots”

– “Five Feet to the Meter” by Jean-Paul Vest (Last Charge of the Light Horse)

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