Nonfiction | Origin Story

Trusting Life’s Serendipity

Shaking, Ali knew she was never going to be the same. For the first time in her entire life, she did not know what to do. Her academic life was always perfect: she graduated with an honors degree from a top university and she had a tenacious desire to become a lawyer. She had spent hours preparing her application, sleepless nights of planning her path, and put all her hopes and expectations in this law school application.

She was never really a religious person, but she had faith in life. She believed that life always rewards those who work hard to achieve what they want. Some call it a destiny, others karma, for Ali, it was a question of fairness. She was a fervent advocate for justice and the fair reward (or punishment) of one’s action. Law was of course an obvious choice for her.

Sitting in her bed, she could not see the rejection email anymore. The tears would not stop, the pain was so strong she could not even move. Slapping herself internally, Ali could not understand, could not figure out the reason why she did not even get onto the waiting list. All she could think of was the word “REJECTION”. That has never happened to her – she was always successful in her grades, applications, and academic choices. Rejection was never part of her plan.

She was shocked by the cruelty of life. How come, after so many hours of effort, wasn’t she rewarded? Where was the justice in her story? Why was life so unfair to her? Over the following months, disillusion and resentment had filled her heart. Ali shut herself down from the rest of the world, she wasn’t going out anymore, preferring instead to rush home after finishing her waitressing job. Hiding from the world was a safer choice. She was never going to experience such pain again. No more risks, no more crazy dreams. She was living a quiet and uneventful life, but her denial was obvious, and so was the concern of her loved ones. When her mother, sister or friends were mentioning the possibility of applying again, she refused to speak about it: “The past is the past, I was not meant to become a lawyer”.

Six months after this crushing day, Ali met for coffee with her high school best friend to catch up. They both shared the same dream of becoming a lawyer, the only difference is that Sophia got into law school, while Ali did not. Ali postponed this meeting twice, but knew she couldn’t miss her friend’s birthday. Bottling up her feelings, she asked Sophia about life at law school. Although reluctant to talk at first, she soon opened up and couldn’t stop talking. After describing all of her classmates, she went on to show her timetable to Ali. Although she knew it was going to hurt her friend, Sophia knew it was what she had to do to convince Ali to apply again. Sophia was convinced that Ali was born to be a lawyer: “Ali, I came across this paralegal position. It’s a full-time job, well-paid and it would give you the experience to enhance your application next year, what do you think?”

Ali was reluctant, becoming a paralegal was never part of her plan. To her, they were the assistants of lawyers, mistreated and bound to do uninteresting tasks like printing and stapling documents. Why on Earth would she want to become someone’s assistant?

Suddenly, she thought of the story of a journalist she had read the night before. Maria Konnikova was a journalist investigating the world of poker. To understand the realities of this world, she learned how to play poker and joined regular games, even playing in tournaments. She had become quite the star in this field, and her story deeply touched Ali, as it reminded her of how much she used to trust life’s serendipity. Before that critical day, she loved challenges, exploring and meeting new people.

Since her refusal, Ali had tried to convince herself that law was not going to be her future career. She believed that life sent her a message through her university’s rejection. After all, maybe she should find another career path. Yet it had been months, and Ali was no closer to having found something else that meant as much to her as law. Hearing Sophia talking about her classes and her life as a law student affected her more than she wanted to admit. Deep down, she knew. Yes, she did say she didn’t want to become a lawyer anymore. Yes, she did say that she was going to find another career path. She was going “believe in life’s path for her”. But all she ended up doing was to let life decide for her and to avoid making decisions.

Even though she was still mourning her dream career, meeting with her best friend made her hope again. She felt like her dream of becoming a lawyer was maybe not destroyed. Her failure may have stopped her temporarily from experimenting and searching for new opportunities, but she wasn’t going to be stuck in it forever.

With nothing to lose, she swallowed her past judgment about paralegal positions and was recruited. She was a paralegal for four years, working rigorously, meeting passionate lawyers, and getting inspired by people in the field. She did such a good job that her firm offered to pay for her law degree when she finally found the courage to apply again and got accepted.

“Life plays us around” was her driving-line. Ali would never have thought her paralegal position would lead her to her dream. She used to be so focused on her planned career-path, nothing else mattered. She closed herself off from other opportunities despite the fact that she “trusted” life to provide what she needed.

Ali learned from her rejection. She knew that she needed to experience failure to become the lawyer she is today. It taught her to fight for what she wanted and to stop when it was no longer worth fighting. Ali learned that serendipity is what makes life worth living, those moments of doubts, expectations and surprises.