Several years ago I was sitting in a bar alone, nursing a drink. My future was shadowy and uncertain, and I was stressing out over a major decision: should I move to Boston, or to California? I had firmly decided that a change was in order, and I was on my way to a new career path...but where would I go? I had been accepted into two graduate programs, one in each state. I had been driving myself crazy for weeks trying to decide which state I wanted to spend the next four years in. As I started a pro-and-con list in my head, for the hundredth time, an old man sat next to me at the bar. He ordered a beer, sipped it for a few minutes, then looked over at me.
"Hey there young lady...you look like you've got a lot on your mind."
I took another sip of my beer. "Oh, I'm fine...just trying to make a decision about something," I answered.
"Yeah? Well, sometimes we tend to overcomplicate things. You know what's better? Just going with your instinct. Go with your first gut decision, and that's your right answer."
"That's what I usually do, but right now I don't actually have any sort of gut feeling. I'm completely divided. That's the problem."
The old man got very quiet and stared down at the bar for several seconds. Then he looked back up, but not at me. His gaze was focused into the mirror across from us, and he muttered, "Well, then, sometimes you just need to let fate make the decision for you."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Sometimes you just need to ask the question and wait for the answer. Like...oh, take the radio, for example...sometimes when I'm confused I ask the radio to give me an answer. Whatever the next song is, I take a hint from that. Try it out for yourself! Focus on that music that's playing, and tell yourself that the next song that comes on will give you the answer to your problem."
"Uh..ok," I answered.
Now, I know that I am highly imaginative, but I swear that the whole atmosphere seemed to shift at that point. The bar darkened and got very quiet. The old man's stare slowly crawled over to my face, and he suddenly appeared as something more than just an old man nursing a beer; his gaze seemed oddly knowing. I felt a strange narrowing of my consciousness, as if I was the only one in that room, and everything else around me was a dream. I shook my head and blinked. Maybe I had had one too many beers?
"Just listen" he muttered. "Ask the universe a question, and it will give you an answer. That next song is going to be fate speaking to you."
So I listened. And even though I was half-laughing about it, my heart started to get a little fluttery once the current song started fading out. What would the next one be?
"I think I'll go to Boston...I think I'll start a new life....I think I'll start it over, where no one knows my name..."
"Well, there you go," the old man said. "There's your answer. Did it help?"
"Yes," I said.
And here I am.