Think about it. How many facets does the declaration — ‘When nothing is certain, anything is possible’ — have? A number too large to count. We know our young children see endless possibilities in almost everything they do. But as adults, we know at some point that disappears from our daily lives.
But at what age do we become immune to possibility? That’s a status we never reach regardless of age, as we see delightfully played out in the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Before we get to the broad spectrum of ages living out that declaration in that movie, consider our own lives and those of our children and parents.
It’s your first day of middle school. You’ve got kids you’ve never met in your class, teachers who don’t yet know you in the front of your classrooms and the colossal freedom that comes with not having to change classes by walking in a straight line with your classmates. Might you get “book-dropped” by a nasty 8th-grader? Perhaps. Might you love the new selections in the new cafeteria? You might. Might you rub the wrong kid the wrong way with an accidental and unintended grimace? Indeed. Might you be noticed and respected for holding the door for another student in a wheelchair? God, I hope so.
It’s your first day in college. Who will your roommates be? Will they be alcoholics or religious fanatics? Will they turn out to be your best friends? What will your professors think of you? Will they know you from the other 200 kids in the lecture hall? Will they hit on you or will they become valued, trusted advisers? Will this frat party be the one where you take off right before the cops arrive and save yourself a whole lot of grief? Will it be the one at which you’re raped? God, I hope not.
It’s your first day at a grown-up job. It’s your first day of retirement. It’s your first day after your divorce is final. It’s your first day of unemployment. It’s your first day in a new city. You get the idea. For me, it was my first day as a substitute teacher. I’d quit my job as a secretary because I knew I wanted to teach, so I started taking classes at night and substitute teaching by day. You know. Just to get my feet wet a little. More accurately, it was more of a sink or swim situation.
I got the call at 5:30 a.m., got dressed, got excited, and showed up at the middle school to which I was assigned. Yeah. To say they rolled over me like a truck rolls over an empty paper towel roll is no exaggeration. One kid gave me a particularly hard time, and I finally sent him to the office. Not 30 seconds later, I saw him still in the class, still making trouble.
“I thought I told you to go to the office,” I said.
“No, you told my brother to go to the office.”
His identical twin brother. Yes, on my first day as a substitute teacher, I had identical twins in one of my classes, and I did not realize it. Apparently one was diabolical and one was not, and I sent the wrong one with a referral to the office. Of course, none of the kids let me in on it, because MIDDLE SCHOOL. My second day was not much better. Different middle school, subbing for a Phys. Ed. teacher. Let’s just say a seating chart does not help if you don’t know anyone’s name and the lesson plan involves them being all over the place in the gym. Never accepted a gym teacher sub job again.
You can’t get much less certain or predictable than a job as a substitute teacher, but I saw the humor in my first day, gleaned wisdom from my second, and determined that yes – if I survived as a substitute teacher, I sure as hell would survive as a teacher. The possibilities of all the rewards that went along with that insanity of teaching had more influence than the uncertainty the profession would bring.
When nothing is certain, anything is possible.
Throughout our lives, there is never a day where anything is certain (even though we operate as though there is), and as a result, an infinite number of possibilities await us always. While there is wisdom in keeping our eyes open to all the combinations and permutations of what could happen, it’s unrealistic to have that in the front of our minds as we go about our daily tasks.
The first days of bigger life changes, however, naturally feel more momentous. Depending on the circumstances, we can go through these changes feeling numb and blind to the possibilities, or hyper-aware and on the lookout for them. Whether we’re numb or hyper-aware, the possibilities can jolt us out of our state and we have the chance to be welcoming or wary. Or warily welcoming.
In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, we see characters, who we cannot help but fall in love with, navigate their own uncertainties, sometimes with grace, and more often with clumsiness. Some with humor, and others with heartbreak. But survive their greatest personal trials, survive tremendous emotional risk, they do. The possibilities do, indeed, seem breathtaking. I cannot wait to see what The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie has in store.
The Second Best Marigold Hotel is now playing in theaters. This post is sponsored by Fox Searchlight Pictures, but the views expressed are the author’s alone. For more information, please visit the official website for The Second Best Marigold Hotel.