I wrote this article a couple of years ago and just found it on my computer. Synchronicity is Jung’s word, but fate or my personal goddess Serendipity is just fine with me. I’m writing another book called Swimming in Sihanoukville. This time, it’s in chronological order starting with my youth. Fate pops up frequently in the book because fate has guided my life since I first gave it a chance to in about 1970 or 1971, when I dropped out of college. Anyway, here’s a lifetime of synchronicities for you.
The first time I put my life in synchronicity’s hands was in 1969. I wanted to drop out of college, but was scared. I knew the draft board would come for me and the last thing I wanted to do was get shipped off to Vietnam. I asked my advisor for his opinion. Norman O. Brown’s book, Love’s Body, was a bestseller and his class, Myth and History was the most popular class at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Our only assignment was to keep a journal and comment on our texts. Our conversation went something like this:
“I want to drop out of college.”
“Why don’t you?” he asked after asking me why I wanted to drop out.
“I’m afraid I’ll get drafted.”
“You won’t get drafted.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve read your journal. The war is not part of your personal myth.”
He was right. I did nothing to avoid getting drafted, but was ordered to attend a pre-induction physical two times. The first time, the bus I was waiting for didn’t bother to stop for me. The second time I was working at a bookshop on Maui, but was asked to go to Los Angeles for my physical. I got a nasty letter telling me I would be arrested if I didn’t go to my next physical, but my name didn’t come up in the lottery again.
Synchronicity saved my life in 1971 when I traveled overland to India. I came down with a nasty case of hepatitis, but didn’t know what I had. I was so weak, robbers took advantage of me three times. First they stole my shoulder bag. My passport and traveler’s checks were gone, but I still had a stash of money in my backpack. I got on a train to Calcutta, but couldn’t keep my eyes open and someone stole my backpack while I slept. When I got to Calcutta, I had about $35 to my name. I thought the U.S. embassy would help me out, but they rudely told me I was on my own until my replacement passport arrived in “about three weeks.”
I didn’t look forward to spending three weeks in Calcutta on $35, so I decided to go back to Vrindavan, where I had met some of Neem Karoli Baba’s Western followers. I was seeing spots in front of my eyes and had to rest every five minutes as I dragged myself back to Howrah Railway Station. When I got there, I was overwhelmed by the crowd. A man about my age wearing neatly pressed Western clothes asked me if I was alright.
“I’m very ill,” I told him. “Can you help me find the ticket counter for the train to Vrindavan?”
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but I have to attend a meeting.” He looked around and saw another neatly dressed Indian about our age. He called him over and explained the situation to him. He agreed to accompany me to the ticket counter and wait until I got my ticket. I tried my best, but couldn’t fight my way to the front of the line. He offered to buy my ticket for me. I gave him my money and he disappeared into the crowd.
I slumped to the floor and put my hands over my face. I was sure I was going to die on the streets of Calcutta. Then I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder.
It was the first man I met. I told him my story. He looked like he had experienced his first miracle.
“I’m not a religious man,” he replied, “but I had such a strong feeling you were in trouble, I made my bus driver stop.” He took me to his meeting. He and his friends chipped in and gave me the exact amount of money the other man had stolen. It lasted until the day my new passport arrived and I was able to have my traveler’s checks replaced.
Synchronicities have become so common in my life; I’ve given them a name. I call her Serendipity. I know, the words don’t mean quite the same thing, but serendipity has such a nice ring to it, I gave my own personal goddess that name in 2005. It happened like this.
I was ready to slip comfortably into old age in 2004. Then my wife dropped a bombshell. She said she was in love with another man and wanted a divorce. The pension I was looking forward to wasn’t enough to support me comfortably in Australia, so I took a course in teaching English as a Second Language with a view to moving to Bali and teaching English there. I flew to Bali from my home near Sydney, Australia to check out my work prospects. They weren’t good. Younger teachers were available and the schools I applied to politely told me waiting around for a job probably wasn’t in my best interest.
I was at an impasse when I walked into a café for a cappuccino. A beautiful Italian woman happened to be giving someone a tarot card reading at a table near where I was sitting. I wasn’t much of a believer in tarot cards, but had nothing to lose. I asked her for a reading and she agreed.
She laid out the cards in a “V” shape. I’ve forgotten the card at the top of the spread, but do remember it reflected my dilemma. I remember the cards that took me on my two possible journeys very well. One was the Four of Pentacles. He was a stern looking man who was hoarding his wealth. The other was the Fool, who danced on the edge of a cliff. At the end of his journey was the World card.
My tarot card reader took me through both journeys. She told me it was time to stop planning and let fate be my guide. My “best laid plans” had failed, so what was there to lose? I decided to take her advice and saw fate as a blue goddess sitting on a cloud. I called her Serendipity and stopped worrying. I would take the Fool’s path and let the winds of fate blow me where they would.
Serendipity brought me to my current home in Cambodia, Sihanoukville. It was never on my list of travel destinations, but I stopped in “for a few days” on my way to Thailand. I never made it to Thailand. I went back to Australia, packed up my things and moved here in 2007. I ran out of money in 2009 and had a Cambodian family to take care of. I tried getting a teaching job, but wasn’t having any luck, so I emailed a friend who had found work as a teacher in Sihanoukville before he decided to return to the U.S. and get a “real job.”
“You have to go every day. If they need someone, they’ll hire you. Otherwise they’ll throw your application away. I only got $3 an hour teaching. Why don’t you do what I’m doing? I work for an SEO company and they’re looking for remote workers. They pay $10 an hour to remote workers.”
That was the beginning of my freelance writing career. If I hadn’t asked my friend at that moment in time, I would never have gotten the job. The company went under about a year later, but by then I knew what I needed to do. It wasn’t easy, but after a year of getting low paid work, a big Australian site offered me regular work at a decent salary and I’m still working for them.
I’ve written almost 100,000 words about how Serendipity (or synchronicity, if you prefer) has interceded in my life. Serendipity Road is all about my relationship with fate. Every step of the way, from California to Australia and now Cambodia, synchronicities pointed the way and cleared obstacles. I’ve had to take advantage of the opportunities she’s presented me with, but they haven’t been opportunities I’ve sought. They just appeared before me at the moments I needed a helping hand the most.
I’ve finally published Serendipity Road after seven edits. It’s not selling well, but I expected that. It doesn’t matter. It was a joy to write and opened my eyes to the many times fate has guided me. It also opened my eyes to the many times I tried to guide my destiny, but failed. I think I’ll keep walking up Serendipity Road and see where my goddess takes me. It’s always been more fascinating than planning my future, so why not? I think I’ve been lucky to have let my life be guided by fate.
When I think of the plans I had for my future as a teenager, I shudder. If fate hadn’t intervened, I’d probably be selling real estate in the town I grew up in. That may sound odd, but I had an unusual experience the last time I visited my hometown in 2004. I saw a man in a real estate office. He had blonde hair like mine and was about my age. He was heavier than I, but the resemblance was so uncanny, I felt like I was stepping into his body. He was pouring over some papers. I felt like I was in his skin. He made more money than I made, but he had a mountain of debts. He was hoping for another sale so he could keep up with his debts.
I’ve never been rich, but I’ve always gotten by and found time to enjoy life along the way. When we moved to Australia, we just happened to move to a great surfing beach and there were many others on the Central Coast. I was able to start surfing again and surfed for 20 years. If a man in a coffee shop I went to in Sydney hadn’t told me about Avoca Beach, I would never have found it. I wasn’t overly impressed with the Central Coast, but as soon as I drove into Avoca Beach, I knew I’d found a home for my family. We found a house and lived in it for over 20 years. Thankfully, we found a bank manager who was willing to lend us the money for the house. He got fired for giving too many loans to “battlers,” but he was there for us when we needed a home loan.
I could go on, but I’m not sure it would convince all my readers. As far as I’m concerned, fate has done a better job of guiding me than my “best laid plans” ever could have. At this stage of my life, I’m giving up on plans. I’ll let my goddess Serendipity be my guide. She may be an imaginary goddess, but I’ve seen too many synchronicities in my life not to believe in them. I’m more than happy to give synchronicity a name and an identity. She’s a beautiful Asian goddess sitting on a cloud raining flower petals down on those who believe in her. I’m not sure who the goddesses are for Cambodians, but they are the Serendipity sisters to me.
I guess you would have to be me to believe in a lifetime of synchronicities like I do. All I know is the best things that have happened to me have been caused by fate. The worst things were the things fear, stress or anxiety caused me to do.