Has life ever thrown you a curve ball? A “curve ball” is “a baseball pitch in which the ball swerves or appears to swerve from its normal or expected course of flight because of a spin put on it in delivery.” [“Curve.” Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/curve. Accessed 11 Sep. 2022.] To use the term in a question about life is to ask if one has ever had a set of expectations that life failed to meet. Typically, the phrase indicates that not only were one’s expectations not met, but the results were radically different than expected. If you are old enough to read this, I suspect you have encountered a few curve balls in your life.
Let me share two personal examples to illustrate what I mean. In the 1970s, I moved to Philadelphia to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy. I knew the course of study would be challenging, but I expected to complete my studies and obtain a position as a philosophy teacher at the university level. Two chapters into the writing of my dissertation, my beloved teacher passed away. I was devastated, lost, and not sure what to do. Eventually, I went to another professor prominent in my field of interest and asked if he would be willing to lead me. There were several factors in play, but in short, the answer was no. Disheartened, I revised my two dissertation chapters, submitted them as an MA thesis, was awarded an MA, and left the university. I found employment in computer programming and followed that career for thirty-four years. I did not achieve my expectation of becoming a philosophy teacher; life had thrown me a curve ball.
The second example concerns my mother. My father died in 1976. My mother remarried and, in the 1980s, lived in Florida with her husband. My former wife and I had a daughter in 1984. In 1985, we took our daughter to visit my mother over the Thanksgiving holidays. We had a good time and planned to do the same thing in 1986. A few days before we were to leave for Florida, I spoke on the phone with my mother. She was worried about what to feed me, a vegetarian, for the quintessential American eating holiday. We talked about some things she could prepare. I told her I loved her, looked forward to seeing her in a few days, and hung up. It was the last time I spoke with my mother. She died a few days before Thanksgiving. My wife, daughter, and I made the trip to Florida as planned, but we spent the time there attending a memorial service for my mother, not enjoying a festive meal with her. Again, life threw me a curve ball.
A few years ago, I came across a quote attributed to Joseph Campbel (1904-1987), the American writer and professor of literature at Sarah Lawrence College, known primarily for his work on comparative mythology and comparative religion. I found the quote on the internet in some different phrasings. The one I liked best went:
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.josephy campbell
In life, I have had to let go of several things I had planned; my difficulty was always accepting what was waiting for me.
Campbell’s quote served as the genesis of my short story “The One That Is Waiting.” In it, a young woman is dealt a hand very different than she had expected, had hoped for; and she handles it with, I believe, the kind of dignity and grace with which I would long to do so. The Dillydoun Review has published the piece online in Issue 20 of their literary magazine.
Many thanks to Amy Burns, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Dillydoun Review, and her excellent review team! If you would like to read the story, you will find it here: “The One That Is Waiting.”
All the best,