Take it from me: I let a Ouija board decide where I went to college.
I’m not kidding.
But there’s a little more to it.
When I was about 10 years old, I got a Ouija board. I think it was a birthday present. It must have been, because shortly thereafter it caused quite a stir at a slumber party when it accidentally revealed the identity of one of my gifts (it was origami). But from then on, I was seriously spooked. It seemed like some sort of dark magic—but that didn’t stop me from playing with it incessantly. It had answers, and I needed to know them.
Even at that age, I was desperate for a guarantee. I was a control freak in training, and I didn’t even know it.
But for a week or two after the Ouija board came into my life, I would recruit anyone and everyone I knew to play it with me, frantically in search of all the answers to my future.
My brother and I would sit in our basement for hours, asking it everything from when the telephone would ring next to how many children we would have to probing its thoughts on the existence of aliens.
On one such occasion, I asked the board where I would go to college. Very obligingly, it spelled out V-A-S-S-A-R. I immediately raced upstairs to confirm that Vassar was in fact a college, and then completely freaked out.
Terrified that a board game might have the power to determine my future, I swore right there and then that I would never let it win.
And when that time finally came to send in applications, I kept my promise. I wouldn’t even look at Vassar. Struck it right off the list, wouldn’t even open the brochure.
That was that, I wasn’t going.
Take that, Fate.
To be fair, it’s a little hyperbolic to say that a Ouija board decided my future, but it certainly had a hand in it. Were it not for that one fateful afternoon in my basement, my life could have taken a very different course. I know that there is no point in thinking about such things, but it’s hard not to wonder every so often. That could have been fate knocking on my door, and I might have passed it up.
Though I don’t truly believe that a faux-paranormal board game may have held the keys to my future, there is one thing to learn from this. Even now, seven years later, that same scenario continues to replay itself—over and over, in all different ways. And I continue to let it.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at me (and nor would I, as it turns out), but I am a massive control freak. So much so that I sometimes sabotage my own life just to prove to myself that I still have options. I make bad decisions (like putting any stock in Ouija boards) just to make sure that I still have free will.
And for what? To preserve my false notion that we have any control in this world? Despite my extreme efforts to the contrary, the universe works in its own mysterious ways, and I can’t do a damn thing about it.
As much as it pains me to admit, nothing is certain in this life, and an enormous part of our existence is influenced by chance. What we do with our lives, who we love, where we end up… all of these things are the product of a long list of options—any of which could have gone the other way, and then we wouldn’t be us. (For a fascinating lesson on why it is nearly impossible that you exist right now in your current form, look here.)
So what do I do with this information? How do I reconcile the fact that I live in an extremely random and chaotic world, yet at the same time I am so neurotic that even my own fate freaks me out?
I don’t know, I’m still working on that one. Reminding myself to let go is a daily practice, and I still fight with the idea that I’m powerless over what happens. But the one thing I do have a choice about it how I act. So, I choose to live as well as I can. I try not to be so hard on myself. I decide to prove my worth—if I’m the privileged product of a zillion coincidences, I might as well act like it.
But this is what I do know: life is something we make, but it’s also something that just happens to us. We can’t control it even if we try. It’s crazy and unpredictable and incredibly surprising (I’m told that’s part of the fun).
So open yourself up, let it in and get comfortable with not knowing.
And if you’re anything like me, get rid of your Ouija board.
Caroline Scherer is finding her way in the world. She is a thinker, a dreamer, a writer, and an old soul. She enjoys, but is not very good at yoga, and is feeling guilty about maybe wanting to reevaluate her vegetarianism. She is also an increasingly less recent graduate of Skidmore College, but pretends otherwise. Nowadays, she uses her liberal arts education to work at an independent bookstore and navigate the strange world of post-graduate underemployment. She is an avid swimmer, crossword puzzle enthusiast and dog lover.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel