"I think the one lesson I have learned
is that there is no substitute for paying attention."
-- Diane Sawyer
Do you ever think about moments that change your life? I’ve started calling them Butterfly Moments, from the chaos theory metaphor that states that when a butterfly flaps its wings in Chile, it causes a tornado in Chicago. In the same fashion, some small, seemingly meaningless moments change the entire trajectory of our lives.
One Butterfly Moment happend during a weekend from college that I spent visiting my aunt Lerrea in Tulsa. My cousin Gary and I were almost the same age and I had dated his best friend. At the time, however, I was very serious about a Marine and one of my favorite pieces of clothing was his old Marine Corps sweatshirt. That Saturday morning I dressed in my cut-off wheat jeans (I am really dating myself, uh?) and that garish yellow and red sweatshirt. However, something stopped me and, for some reason, I changed shirts. Later that day, my ex-boyfriend stopped by and we talked for awhile and then went out for a drive and proceeded on almost in a straight line to a twelve-year marriage. That marriage took me to California where the threads of my present life wove themselves into a new tapestry, one that I’m sure would look entirely different if I had worn that Marine Corp brand that long ago Saturday morning.
Ann Swain identified a similar moment when she walked into a calculus classroom carrying arrows for her archery class and captured the attention of her future (and present) husband. No arrows; no attention. Jorge Vanegas, civil engineering professor at Georgia Tech, traces his life path back to a moment when his boss dropped a leaflet on his desk and it opened up a new world.
What life would I have lived if I had worn that sweatshirt? What life path would have stretched before Ann if she had not carried those arrows? Where would Jorge be today if not for that leaflet? What does it mean if seemingly meaningless moments can carry such meaning? These moments are always outside our logical mind. Ann didn’t think, "If I carry these arrows, I’ll meet the love of my life." Jorge didn't say, "Wow, I'm going to be a college professor in Atlanta."
So, if some small moments can be linked directly to major life changes, does it mean that all small moments carry such portent? A left turn instead of a right and we’re in a different life? How does it change the way we approach life if we know that every moment, every action has the power of a butterfly?
I would love to hear your thoughts and your stories about your own Butterfly Moments. Please add them in the comments section below.