The word serendipity was first coined by Walpole, in reference to a fairy tale where the characters were constantly coming upon discoveries and treasures of which they were not searching. If you do your Google’s, Merriam Webster defines it as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”. As for the definition of wonder, they’d say it’s “a cause of astonishment or admiration”.
When I ponder the meaning of serendipitous wonder, I imagine myself walking my path in life open to whatever comes upon me, finding joy in the unexpected, appreciating everything that surrounds me, and letting go of the notion of control; ultimately, it’s all about trusting that the universe will lead me where I’m meant to go.
Some may read this statement and believe that I wish to go through my life without direction and purpose, with no idea of where I’m headed and without life goals or aspirations. This couldn’t be further from the truth. To me, it is all about having goals and purpose, while enjoying the journey, using my values to guide me; knowing that if I do so, it will lead me to the goal eventually, in good time. It means putting my authentic self first, being open to happenstance experiences and embracing connection with people in unexpected places.
I find that when I allow myself to let go and just be me, serendipity enters my life in abundance. All of us have difficult weeks from time to time, and my life is no different. In fact, it is often filled with more challenges than feel fair and manageable; but I keep going because that’s just what I do. It is oftentimes when I can’t imagine one more thing going sideways, that a person enters my life and I am filled with abounding joy, even if it’s just for a little while.
This was my experience not long ago, and I never imagined that I would make such a connection with another person when my intention was just to check out the merchandise in the little shop next to where I got lunch. I was immediately drawn to the storefront on Southeast Division Street, with its unique array of treasures, because it honored women and reminded me of how powerful we are if we allow ourselves to believe it. I knew I wouldn’t have much time to peruse because I had a therapy appointment soon thereafter a couple blocks up the street, but I figured I’d at least check it out.
The guy working that afternoon was warm, welcoming, and told me a little about the store. I walked around, feeling overwhelmed, in a positive way, by every quote, piece of art, and little trinket, because it was all about women finding their strength and kicking ass in this world. I knew I would miss out on so much if I rushed through, so I told him I was coming back after therapy to take it all in. He was very sweet and excitedly told me he’d be there when I returned.
I returned after my therapy session and was immediately greeted with enthusiasm. I took my time looking around, all the while chatting with him about all the different merchandise and how excited I was to find such an amazing shop. I was laughing out loud reading cards, which started up a conversation of complexity, mutual vulnerability, understanding of one another, and connection. We talked about everything from our values, to experience as queer individuals, to disabilities, to relationships, to writing, and eventually landing on finding the courage to stand alone when we strongly believe in something.
It was one of those moments when you instinctively know that the person in front of you just gets you, without any explanation. They can look at you and see you for exactly who you are because you trusted them enough to let them in. The beauty in the experience is one that seldom replicates and value can’t be attached to. I know he came into my life that day because that is part of my journey; it was supposed to happen, so it did. If I had been closed off, armored up, and not paying attention, I may very well have missed out on meeting someone that I now consider one of my dearest and most trusted friends.
I was there for over 2 hours that afternoon. I purchased a few small things, one being a typewriter pin for my backpack, and a Still I Rise piece of art for my wall; both items I enjoy and love for more than what they physically are. They are a reminder of the kindness and love another person offered me that day. Before I left, I handed him my Braving the Wilderness book by Brene Brown, telling him that my only request was that when he was finished reading it, he passed it along to another person he thought would appreciate and find value in it. He was super excited and asked me to come back on one of the days he worked so we could talk about it. I grinned, knowing I would definitely return.
I left that little shop with a smile and warmth in my soul that wasn’t there upon entering. Every experience I have changes a part of me, even if it’s in the smallest of ways, and that afternoon a piece of my heart grew just a little bigger and the light in my eyes a little brighter; joy will do that to a person, especially when it comes from experiencing someone else’s truth alongside their own.