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Many Twists of Fate

It all began with a price check on tampons.

If I hadn’t bought those tampons, I wouldn’t have become best friends with that girl. And if I hadn’t become best friends with that girl, I wouldn’t have changed my mind about where I was going to go to college at 12:34 pm when I was in line buying prom tickets. I chose my school because I couldn’t imagine being apart from her for the weeks between summer vacation and Thanksgiving break.

And if I hadn’t fallen in love with her and followed her to college, we wouldn’t have made the decision to not see each other for the first month of school so we could form our own friendships. And if we hadn’t been so deeply in love, we wouldn’t have reneged on that decision within the first 48 hours. And if we hadn’t reneged on that decision, it wouldn’t have hurt so badly when we tried again and again to separate from each other.

And if we hadn’t been trying to separate from each other, I wouldn’t have forced myself to attend the open mic poetry reading in the student union in search for a new friend when I felt so miserable. And if I hadn’t attended that reading, I would have never met E (the mutual friend who got married) and H (the bastard who called me the old grey horse)–both seniors who were there reading their poetry. And if I hadn’t stopped to talk to them afterwards because I thought E was cute, I wouldn’t have been invited out for coffee.

And because I was invited out for coffee, we struck up this friendship that was one part big brother and one part crush and because of that crush, I chose to become a Scandinavian Studies major just like E in addition to my second major of creative writing. And because I chose to a Scandinavian Studies major, I drove my parents crazy with the idea that they would be supporting me well into old age because there is absolutely nothing one can do with a Scandinavian Studies major unless they are looking to teach Scandinavian Studies.

And because my parents were worried about my major, they used the free long-distance day afforded by AT&T once a year to talk out every major possibility and steer me towards a major in anthropology (I know, just as useful!). And because our AT&T day was right before we chose our class schedule for the second semester, I was able to change my major and still graduate in four years. But because I had enough credits to get a certificate in Scandinavian Studies, I took the final course that had a hard-to-purchase book that I didn’t order in time and checked out from the college library but due to a glitch in the system kept forever. I won’t name the book here in case my old university ever comes knocking on my door to try to collect it, but needless to say, every detail in this story will return by the end including this book which is currently downstairs on my bookshelf.

Because I was now an anthropology major, the camp director at the summer camp I worked for between my sophomore and junior year of college thought I would have enough in common with the new counselor who was a geography major. In fact, she said, “would you please go to lunch with him? His grandmother died today and he needs someone to talk to. You two could talk about social science things.”

So we went to get pizza during the first day of camp and we ended up falling in love when we went on the camping trip from hell. And because of that camping trip, we dated for two tumultuous years and because they were tumultuous years, they were also fodder for the story I wrote that got me accepted into my graduate school program. The story was set in Kenya and brought in things I was studying at the time in a mandatory anthropology course.

And this is where we hit a clump of fate. I would have never applied to this program if it wasn’t in the state where the boy lived. And I would have never chosen to go to this program if I hadn’t felt support prior to getting there whereas I didn’t feel support from the other program in the area. And I never would have ended the relationship had he not made me miss meeting Christo and Jean Claude (it was the straw that broke the camel’s very bowed back) and I wouldn’t have written the story had we not broken up because I wouldn’t have angrily aired our dirty laundry. And had I not aired our dirty laundry in a very emotional short story, I would have never connected with the professor who would become my mentor.

And if I hadn’t had that particular professor, I would not have remained in touch with him long after graduate school, still turning to him for friendship and as a mentor. And if he wasn’t my mentor, he wouldn’t have brought me together with my first agent. And if I hadn’t met Serenity in that Thai restaurant, I probably wouldn’t have had the inner strength to leave the agent that night when I returned to my sister’s house after dinner. And if I hadn’t left her, I wouldn’t have asked my mentor to coffee a few weeks later so I could lament about my lack of direction with non-fiction and he wouldn’t have attempted to hooked me up with his friend’s agent who subsequently turned me down.

But if that agent hadn’t turned me down, he wouldn’t have given me the name of another agent who he thought would be a better match and had he not been the kindhearted man that he is, he wouldn’t have told me to use his name as an in to get her to look at the proposal. Which, of course, she turned down.

But if that agent hadn’t turned me down, she would not have given me the name of another agent who she thought would be a better match and had she not been the kindhearted woman that she is, she wouldn’t have told me to use her name as an in to get the next agent to look at the proposal. Which she accepted.

And had this new woman not become my agent, I may not have had the fortitude to continue this project. And had I not continued this project, I would not have gotten it in a state to be shopped right before Thanksgiving last year. And if I wasn’t so comfortable with the new agent, I probably would not have had the balls to write my agent a note the day before Thanksgiving and ask her to send the proposal to Seal Press, which I have always loved as a press since I first encountered them as the publisher of many of my Scandinavian Studies books, most notably, the book I stole from the library.

And had it not been before Thanksgiving, they may not have been working to fix her server at work and had my email swallowed by the system. But I didn’t know that and when she wrote me the Monday following Thanksgiving with her list of where she was shopping it and Seal was on the list, I assumed that my ballsiness had paid off and she was following my suggestion.

Which is why it was strange when she called a few days later to ask me if I had written to her prior to Thanksgiving because she had a list of who had sent the emails that were swallowed by the server without a way to access the actual emails. Could I resend. And I told her that it wasn’t important because it was only an email about how much I love Seal Press and she had sent it to them regardless. And we both laughed about how great minds think alike.

And then Seal Press made an offer a few days later.

And we accepted.

And I wrote the book.

And I never would have reached this spot if not for a box of tampons.

My advice, for what it’s worth, always put your heart on the line. Always take a chance and let yourself fall in love. You just never know where it will bring you. Hopefully some place good.

The moral
of the story is that the smallest decisions can have far-reaching repercussions. And that when it all comes down it, so much of what happens to us is out of our hands.

And I owe everything to Tampax.


1 MrsSpock { 09.24.08 at 1:47 pm }

I hope there’s some twist of fate that makes my much-lamented anthropology degree seem better in hindsight…

2 soapchick { 09.24.08 at 1:48 pm }

Yeah tampons!! It is amazing how the steps of our lives each lead down a path. Can’t wait to buy the book!

3 luna { 09.24.08 at 2:09 pm }

I love this, mel. I love how you can tie your pre-pubescent self to the here and now in so many ways but with that unique twine that is you throughout.

the “what if it hadn’t” line of thinking seems far more useful than “what if.” I often think about what forces of fate are working right now to present some opportunity in the not too distant future…

your story goes to show you just never know what doors will open when another closes…

4 I Believe in Miracles { 09.24.08 at 2:25 pm }

That’s an awesome story. Everything has a reason…

5 Kristin { 09.24.08 at 2:34 pm }

I love this story. I can think of a similar train of seemingly unrelated incidents in my life that also had a fortuitous outcome.

6 nancy { 09.24.08 at 2:42 pm }


heh. All over a box of tampons.

7 Portraits In Sepia { 09.24.08 at 2:48 pm }

I will now think of this story everytime I unwrap and insert a tampon. (there’s just something not right about that). But now I am inspired to write my own “Many Twists of Fate” story.

8 Manda { 09.24.08 at 3:09 pm }

If ever there was a story about water diverting around rocks in a stream, this is it. Thanks so much for telling it. This is really a beautiful post.

9 Wishing 4 One { 09.24.08 at 4:04 pm }

this should be included in your book, seriously.

and tampons, who would have thought…(I remember reading that story of yours too here a while back)


10 Fertilized { 09.24.08 at 4:44 pm }

and i thought tampax were evil! Now I see a new purpose for them .,. Fate. Great prespective

11 LJ { 09.24.08 at 4:54 pm }

And let us all say Dayenu. Except – anything other than you in all the forms we get you now would never have been sufficient Mel time.

12 Cara { 09.24.08 at 5:13 pm }

The twists and turns certainly make us who are and put us WHERE we are! Hmmm…now you’ve got me thinking…

13 Antigone { 09.24.08 at 5:27 pm }

Can I just say, Congratulations?

14 Meghan { 09.24.08 at 5:51 pm }

I love looking at each step in a chain…and how it all relates together. Each little act keeps on rippling. Great post

15 Sarah { 09.24.08 at 5:57 pm }


16 ms. c { 09.24.08 at 7:02 pm }

Horray for tampons!

17 Michelle { 09.24.08 at 7:05 pm }

What an awesome story! It just proves everything happens for a reason!

18 annacyclopedia { 09.24.08 at 8:49 pm }

Everything Luna said. And I love, love, LOVE this post. Love.

19 bendingbackwards { 09.24.08 at 9:06 pm }

I LOVE… LOVE… LOVE… this post! All the little twists of fate sometimes turn out to lead us to some great happiness (thinking about how I met E). And thanks for reminding me to put my heart on the line.

20 Paz { 09.24.08 at 9:12 pm }

I wonder what it means for my life that I ordered Chinese food for lunch, but never actually ate it. So tomorrow, I won’t leave the office because I’ll eat the leftovers. hmmmm

(great post!!)

21 Lori { 09.24.08 at 10:47 pm }

And since we are all connected to you through SQ, we ALL owe everything to Tampax.

Really, when you think about it, we owe it all to AF.

22 Geohde { 09.25.08 at 5:20 am }

Remind me to buy tampax brand the next time I want to take on a big project 🙂


23 Karen @ Chez Perky { 09.25.08 at 7:51 am }

And this, Mel, is why I love you so much.

24 Wordgirl { 09.25.08 at 7:52 am }

I second Lori — we all are the beneficiaries of this little twist of fate!


25 Sweet Georgia { 09.25.08 at 9:44 am }

Some people call it fate, others call it luck.To quote the big O, luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Whatever it is, I’m glad that it’s worked out for you!

from iclw

26 tj { 09.25.08 at 9:50 am }

Aww Mel, beautiful!

27 Rebecca { 09.25.08 at 12:44 pm }

I love it when you can look back on your life and see the thread that got you to where you are now. There are things that happen to you, which at the time feel horrible, that eventually lead you to a much better place. Life is quite a journey.

28 M de P { 09.25.08 at 1:29 pm }

Mel, you are too much!! This post is FANTABULOUS!!

Hurray for tampax! Maybe there is an endorsement deal in your future??

29 Beautiful Mess { 09.25.08 at 2:56 pm }

YAY for tampons! I love playing the “twist of fate” game. It always ends in such an interesting way.
Enjoy your day

30 astral { 09.25.08 at 7:56 pm }

Everything happens for a reason. We may not know why at the moment but it does. I think like that sometimes: if that happened this wouldn’t have happened. Just like in Harry Potter when they went back in time they were told only to do the task at hand (free Buckbeak) because if they did more than that they could disturb the future. Congratulations and thank you for reminding us to put our hearts our there. I look forward to your book. Hey, if we send it to you can we get it signed?

31 JamieD { 09.26.08 at 11:04 am }

I’m amazed you can trace all that back!

Yay for Tampax!!

32 Bea { 10.10.08 at 6:11 am }

I love this story!


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