Serendipity has been voted as one of the top ten English words that are hardest to translate. It has popped up in my life numerous times, quite often leaving me frustrated and feeling stupid as I had no idea what the person meant.
Honestly, go and ask someone right now what it means. They’ll attempt to sound intelligent and give you some half-cocked answer, guaranteed. For example, my neighbour told me years ago that it was ‘ a French cooking method involving lots of kneading’. Wrong, wrong,wrong. And led to many confusing conversations in the years to follow.
A few years ago, a friend invited me to the Rally Championship in Victoria. There would be a chance to meet the drivers and see behind the scenes, very exciting for an avid motorsport fan. So of course, I got extremely intoxicated the night before and decided to stay in my bed instead of venturing out to the muddy paddocks to watch rally drivers push their cars to the limits. I got a text message around 10am "Where r u?" "Dying. In bed. Sorry" All I got back was one word. You guessed it. "Serendipity". What the fuck does that mean? I thought it sounded like a pretty good stripper name, but was fairly sure that’s not what he meant. And so the word haunted me, and I pondered for a couple of years on what stripshow I had missed at the rally meet that year.
Whilst travelling in Bali last year, a particularly pompous journalist decided to sit his arse next to mine and impose all of his innermost thoughts on life, politics, what he had for breakfast. Naturally, I was thrilled. Because let’s face it – when one travels for 9 and half hours to drink ice cold beer on a beautiful beach by the sunset, a pompous journalist is always grand. About as grand as say, losing a limb or catching tuberculosis.
Anyway, the pompous journalist must have realised that I did not completely despise him at that stage so I’ll give it to him – he tried his little heart out, and lo and behold, I really did despise him within half an hour.
The conversation went a little like this:
Pompous Arse: So, I put to you. What is the true meaning of the word Serendipity?
Me: Errr, haha. Yes I totally agree. (nods frantically at waiter for another Bintang)
Pompous Arse: Well?
Me: Oh! You actually want me to answer that, in front of all these literary minds sitting around the table? Well, errrm… It’s kind of a once in a lifetime chance sort of thing… You know? God these Bintangs are good, aren’t they?
Pompous Arse: Mmm. Good try sweetheart but I would have eluded to the childlike manner that serendipity is all about. When we are children, we have no boundaries. We are untarnished and have no fear! So we say yes, to things we would never dream of and thus excel in life. Blah, blah blah blah blah…
That’s about the bit I zoned out on. Anyway I would now like to say: WRONG YOU IDIOT, WRONG!!!!!!! Sorry sweetheart. Good try though.
After this weekend has past, I feel like I have realised the true meaning of ‘serendipity’. This came about after meeting up with an old friend, who after hearing my plans, proceeded to tell me that I was an idiot, a fool, and other such names. I went home feeling a little ill. Fuck! What if this is a really, really bad decision. Just like when I decided to break into my house on Friday night and nearly got stuck through the window? Then had to convince our elderly neighbour Evelyn to not call the police, and that I did in fact live there.
Feeling restless and slightly queasy, I ventured into the my favourite place to restore my senses. Melbourne City. Most people I know hate the hustle and bustle of the city, but for some reason amongst all the craziness, I always find peace. I love the huge old buildings with their history, the little laneways with some of the best coffee in the world- served in mugs that will ensure you don’t sleep for at least a week. I love the buskers that vary from a blindman in a wheelchair singing Barry White to the guy in a chicken suit who plays the Zorba on his child-sized piano. I love the crazy russians who kiss me on my cheeks when they see me now, probably using me as a mule for crack cocaine but what the hell? They seem like nice guys. I love everyone waiting at the lights, two large groups on either side of the road, waiting to weave and cross through the oncoming crowd like a well-choreographed dance. Except when a small child cuts in front of me and completely fucks my dance. I hate kids.
I was sitting outside my little cafe, sipping on my large cup of coffee and smoking to my hearts content. This is when Boris the Russian, ( I don’t actually know his name, but it certainly seems to fit the bill), came and sat next to me- rolling his industrial strength hardcore Russian cigarette. He looked at me, and said in his thick Russian mafia accent ‘ Still in that shit job darlin-gah? ‘ "Yeh, but not for long!" (CHRIST! Had I mentioned it to Boris too? I really was trying to lose all friends in the world by my constant whingeing, even Boris).
I went on to explain to Boris my foolproof plan for life which included throwing away my permanent job and selling my car. As I said, foolproof. Boris seemed to have a twinkle in his eye (and not just from the russian shit he was smoking). He told me that this would be the best thing I had ever done because I had stumbled across it, it wasn’t planned. It was a messy life plan that would take shape in time, however it was meant to. He told me that when we are least looking for it, we stumble across amazing things. He told me that this is serendipity.
And for the first time, I didn’t walk away feeling confused. I was slightly jittery and had a few heart palpitations as a result of too much coffee, cigarettes and the vodka shot Boris gave me, but my mind was clear. Deciding to study is a scary, but exhilarating decision and one that I will embrace from now on. There’s always gonna be pompous bastards that have an opinion, but I will just look forward to all the serendipitous moments to come. And Vodka shots aplenty.
NB: Boris’ bear was not hurt during the making of this post. He did have a few vodka shots and russian rollies, but seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.