I heard this term the other day listening to Joanna Penn’s podcast “The Creative Penn” and it resonated. After all, it is what we do as writers, or at least I do. Taking what the world has to throw at me, filing it in mental priority buckets, and then trying to make sense of it is how I flavor my fiction. I get that I write fantasy romance, and not everything from these stories would be “real” in the sense that we think about it, but the characters I write become real to me and their situations allow me to think about how someone (or I) would react to them.
I find myself doing this a lot, now that I am more aware of it, and think about all the things I could have avoided if I had left 5 minutes earlier, or in some cases later. I think about the lives that were changed forever more, by being in the wrong place at the wrong time and resulted as being a victim of circumstance. On the other side of the coin, being at the right place at the right time is a thing also, a very powerful thing.
In my adolescence, I grew up in a suburb outside of Detroit and hadn’t moved too far away from that area at the time Northwest Flight 255 crashed just outside Metro Airport. The plane was just clearing the runway at 8:46 p.m. on August 16, 1987, when it clipped a light pole and crashed into the highway. Out of 155 people on board, only a 4-year old girl survived. Thankfully, Cecelia Cichan has no recollection of what happened, and lived with her Aunt after Cecelia’s parents and brother were killed in the crash. Once an investigation took place, it was found that the flaps hadn’t extended, prohibiting the plane from taking off properly. Without the height needed to clear the runway, the wing hit a pole, causing the wing to catch fire, and sending the plane into a building before flipping onto Middlebelt Road. Several people in vehicles on the highway were injured and two were killed.
The devastation was unbelievable, and as the story unraveled, I remember thinking at the time that this little girl’s life had changed in an instant. That perhaps she was meant for great things. The accident had a big impact on me, and it wasn’t until the other day when I came across a mention of Cecelia (now Mrs. Crocker) that I thought about this accident again and the what ifs started all over again. Now that I’m older, I realize that my original thought of the great things she was meant for put entirely way too much pressure on anyone, let alone that of a 4-year old child. I was happy to see that she was raised away from the media and is now happily married to her high-school sweetheart. It also brought tears to my eyes to know that the Firefighter that pulled her from the wreckage still keeps in touch with her, and even danced with her at her wedding. From the devastation of the family she lost, a new one was found.
I can’t begin to speculate what would have happened if the pilot called in sick, or the Cichan family had missed their flight, or even the two folks on the highway had left 30 minutes sooner, but it is where my mind goes. My mind also touches on all of the lives that were lost and the families that mourn them. Their lives have been forever changed by the sudden and tragic death of their loved ones, but they have also taken solace in making new connections with the other families who were impacted as well. So many changes in an instant, and the rippling effects of the relationships that have come from it have yet to be seen.
There are a number of theories and speculations on a higher power, whether there is a heaven or hell, or if we are all just ants on an ant farm for someone’s universal science project. I couldn’t possibly get into that conversation today. Just know that I find everyone’s point on those topics fascinating and will chat about them anytime with you if we are ever to meet. I will say that as part of this fascinating species, I am constantly trying to put things in categories so that my brain can stop thinking of them, but sometimes it is impossible to do. Frankly, sometimes I find myself building more “mental buckets” to toss my thoughts into instead of using the ones I already have. I suppose that is why after all of these years I started to write again. It is my way of understanding a world that I am part of, and sometimes take for granted, but that I am also equally clueless about. The blog posts help as well, and I appreciate those that read them for sticking with me on some of my ramblings.
At the end of the day, we are all here for a finite period of time. It is what we choose to do with that time that brings us the variety and inspiration we find in the world. It took me a long time to connect with my purpose, and I had to wade through a lot of distractions to find it. Sorting through the randomness of my thoughts and the energy that is sent my way is just part of the process, I know that now. And knowing it is the first step in doing something about it.