I was born a caucasian woman in the United States toward the middle of the last century in a suburb that was safe and mostly filled with people just like me into a family that valued education and moderately good hygiene. Those random facts of fate are a big part of what I have been able to do with my life. And, as we know, that is not all of it. It is the hand I was dealt, and then I had to make something of it.
Along the way there were accidents of fate: moves to different cities, siblings, random encounters with various people. And along the way there were choices: Choices to try hard or give up; choices of friends to get to know and schools to apply to. Choices about how to understand the world and myself.
When we look at a certain fact or experience, we often try to pin down the cause to a single thing, or perhaps a couple of factors. The truth is, everything is infinitely multidetermined. Each moment is an accumulation of all that has come before it. At each decision point, we do the best that we can, but we cannot foresee all of the consequences because we cannot understand all of the factors that will affect those consequences.
When I sit and talk with someone, it takes a great deal of time for that person to explain how it is that he or she finds him or herself at this particular point in life. There are so many realities in any one life that impact the course it has taken, and so many choices. We are free agents internally, but we do not control the world, or other people. Our choices matter–sometimes more than we realize. And at the same time, we are not in complete control of their effects.
Reflectively considering our decisions as we make them will not guarantee the outcomes we want, but reactively taking off in all directions will most certainly result in outcomes we do not want. It is a bit of a paradox. Even when we try as hard as we can to make the best choices, there is no certainty they will result in our well-being. But not trying to be thoughtful causes us to give up the one control we have: the choice to know our own minds and regulate them as much as we can.