What is a coincidence? Can a coincidence merely be a random unlikely occurrence? Have you ever thought of someone, who then called or texted you? Have you ever thought of an event or someone that you then encountered?
Years ago, in college, I made a new friend whose hometown happened to be only 15 minutes away from mine. My friend ordered a cake from a grocery store in my hometown to present to her mother for Mother’s day. On Mother’s day, I drove this new friend two hours to the grocery store to pick up her cake. This was our first time taking this trip together let alone this particular route to the store. During the trip, we talked about several things and for a reason I can’t recall, I talked about an old friend of mine from high school, Gabriel.
Some time passed and later along the way we even passed by Gabriel’s house and I exclaimed, “look, look! Remember the guy I was telling you about? That’s his house.” I also relayed that this old friend, coincidentally, even used to work at the grocery store, to which we were traveling to, in high school. He had since, like the rest of us, gone off to college in a different town. Unlike most of us though, he had moved back home and started taking classes at a local college.
We arrived at the grocery store to learn that the cake was actually ordered at the other location across town. We then proceeded to the correct location. We successfully paid for the cake and were walking towards the exit when it happened. My friend and I run into Gabriel!
We chatted for a little bit, got caught up with one another, and then went our separate ways. Not much came of this unlikely meeting, but I could not help keep mentioning to my friend how strange it was that this event happened. I could not have planned it even if I tried. I have often wondered what to make of this. The last couple of years, I’ve had several more similar incidences, though typically smaller. More recently, I found myself in a similar situation even more uncanny. This time, I would have a somewhat premonition.
While in my personal idea generator, the shower, I imagined myself giving advice to a group of undergraduate students. You see, when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree I was a member of an organization whose goal was to encourage students to attend graduate school. Sometimes, professors at other universities or graduates of our university would come and give us advice on topics such as applying to grad school, succeeding in grad school, or they would tell us about the benefits of going to grad school. While scrubbing away the previous day’s filth, I envisioned myself speaking to the current members of my old organization, telling them about my experiences in graduate school and what to expect if they also chose to attend.
In the building that I work in I usually do most of my work on the floor beneath the floor of the main room. This day was no different. After working for a few hours, I decided to take a snack break. I had been eyeing a collection of chocolate muffins in the window of a nearby shop for maybe the past week, but I decided that today was the day. I bought one of the chocolate chip adorned chocolate muffins and headed back to my building. I decided to finish devouring my treat on the main floor instead of the floor I had been previously working on. I would only stay there long enough to finish my snack, then go back downstairs. No more than five minutes after standing outside of the main room, I noticed someone down the hall.
I noticed a young woman walking down the hall at a careful pace studying each hallway and door. I knew this sequence all too well. Many-a-student had walked down the same hallway with the same look. New to the floor, they were usually looking for a particular room in which special meetings were sometimes held. Other times they were looking for a professor’s office that was actually located in a different building that was attached to the one we were in. Sure that one of the two scenarios was this young lady’s situation as well, when within earshot, I asked “Need help?”
“Yes, I’m looking for a lab. Dr. Yang,” she replied.
“Oh! Yeah, Dr. Tiffany Yang. The lab is actually on the fifth floor.” I remarked.
“No. Dr. (mumbled). I’m taking his class.”
Still slightly confused, I asked, “What’s the class?”
“Advanced Cell… something.”
Wondering why she couldn’t remember the name of her class, I still put the pieces together “Oh yeah! Advanced Cellular Physiology. Dr. Chang! Yes, we’re standing in front of his lab. Are you looking for him? He’s not here. He might be in his office, though.”
“No, I’m looking for someone else,”she replied.
Come to find out she was looking for me! The girl was a current Master’s student who had recently graduated with another Master’s degree from the same institution that I received my Bachelor’s degree. Apparently, she was speaking with the teacher of one of her classes, who also happens to be my boss, about her grades and during the conversation she mentioned the name of her previous school. After what appeared to be a few moments of memory searching, Dr. Chang stated that one of his students, I, also attended the same school. He told her the location of his lab and to come look for me. She had come to ask me for advice on finding a research lab to work in and how to get into the Ph.D. program here! Was this not similar to what I imagined earlier that morning?
Each time something like this happens, I reflect and search for some meaning. I have yet to determine what to make of them, though. Some coincidences seem too unlikely to be only chance occurrences. Are there purposes for these experiences? If so, why can’t it be clearer what they are? If not, then what explains them? For now, I can only continue to keep track to these moments and continue to search for answers.