Serendipity the first
When I was fifteen, I scored badly on my high-school placement exam. Not terribly bad, but just enough so that I didn’t make the cut-off point for the specific high-school that I wanted to go to. My mom (who had been a teacher for decades at that point) pulled some strings, and the high-school added an extra spot to one of the classes, a few months after the school year had already started1. I just showed up one day, and took a seat behind one of the girls in my new class.
Her name is Dalia, and this year we are celebrating the 21st anniversary of our relationship, and the 11th anniversary or our marriage.
Serendipity the second
When I was eighteen, Dalia’s mom was taking a computer literacy course mandated by her workplace. I was pretty good with computers, so she asked me for some help with one of her assignments. It was about creating a basic HTML document with a couple of hyperlinks and some text formatting2. I didn’t know any HTML either, but I took to it right away, and found I really enjoyed it.
I’ve been a web developer for the past fifteen years.
Serendipity the third
Eight years ago, my wife’s workplace sent her to Vienna to attend a couple of conferences. We had talked about emigrating from Romania for a long time3, and had visited a few European countries before, but none of them really won us over, so we were pretty settled in our life there. So settled, in fact, that we were making plans to buy our first home. When my wife came home from her second trip, she told me I just had to see Vienna with my own eyes. Dear reader, have you ever had a place speak directly to your soul? Have you ever gone somewhere new, only to get the incredible feeling that you are finally home? Well, I have, and my wife has.
Wir leben seit vier Jahren in Österreich.
Serendipity the fourth
Three years ago, I quit my remote job and got a new one here in Vienna, working at a physical office for a local company that shall not be named. The place was such a clusterfuck of incompetence and bad management, that I left after just a couple of months, before the trial period had even expired4. Two weeks before I left, the company brought in a new CTO in a belated effort to stir things around and fix the place. I had a good feeling about the guy, but my decision had already been made, and I doubted a single person (even one at the C-level) could turn things around so drastically, especially since the big problems weren’t inherently technical.
A month or two after I made my exit, the CTO reached out to me. He had also bailed on the company, for the same reasons I had5. He now occupied a similar position for one of the major media conglomerates here in Austria, and was building a new team for some fresh projects, and would I consider joining?
I have been working in what has so far been the best job of my career for the past two years.
Serendipity the fifth
In 2020, we bought a couple of bicycles.
Lessons I’ve learned
Life doesn’t follow a script. Everything I am today, everything I hold most dear, is due more or less to random circumstances and events that either had no meaning at the time, or had meaning for completely different reasons6.
These moments are only visible in hindsight, and sometimes not even then. It’s impossible to see them as they happen, which is why it’s a bad idea to plot out your life too far in advance. Make long-term plans and stick to them, sure, but be flexible, and always be prepared for life to throw you a couple of curveballs.
Put yourself out there. Don’t get caught in lifelong ruts and expect something to happen out of the blue. Meet new people, try new experiences. Do your work well, and with diligence. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”7.
There’s a flip side to serendipity. Tragic events happen just as randomly as happy ones. There are drunk drivers, deadly diseases, and madmen with access to nuclear weaponry. Your life can come crashing down without a moment’s notice, so treasure the time you have now, while you can.
I’m not proud of being a beneficiary of corruption, but there’s not much I can do about it now, more than two decades later. At fifteen, my moral compass wasn’t yet developed nearly enough to care about ideals like honor and fairness. ↩︎
The assignment had to be accomplished in Microsoft Word, which will tell you everything you need to know about the state of IT education in my native country twenty years ago. ↩︎
As pretty much all Romanians will do at some point in their lives. ↩︎
Employment contracts in the European Union typically start with a trial period during which neither side is required to give notice if they want a clean break. ↩︎
If you’re wondering how a bad company can attract experienced talent in the first place, the answer is blatant lying and misrepresentation during the interview phase. ↩︎
Like switching high-schools to supposedly get a better education and instead meeting the love of my life, the impact of which far outweighs any real or imagined difference there might be between two schools. ↩︎
I didn’t come up with that, Seneca did. In fact, since you’re here, give him a read if you haven’t. Start with William B. Irvine’s “Guide to the Good Life” for a great introduction to Stoicism. ↩︎