Recently on Facebook ImprovGuy asked "Why is it so hard to know if it is destiny beckoning, or the abyss?" I got thinking about it and came to the conclusion that the problem is not knowing which of the two it is but rather the very idea that it could be one or the other. Here is the thing about Destiny: It is a fiction. The universe is just a random place where things happen without rhyme, reason, or narrative direction. There is no right answer, no perfect choice, no reward waiting for those who stick to the script. Moreover I think we cause ourselves no end of trouble when we make the universe out to be that way.
The obvious example is marriage and soulmates. You don't have a soulmate, I don't have a soulmate, nobody has one, at least not in any mystical sense. Tim Minchin said it best in his song "If I Didn't Have You"; love grows over time and is increased by shared experience; it also ends, even when we don't want it to, even when it was complete and wonderful before. The problem with soulmates are legion but one of the biggest is the anger that is directed against someone whom once was loved; one must face the idea that either one has no idea what a soulmate would look like or decide that the former lover was deceitful, evil, responsible for the mistake. Far healthier to simply accept that they were right for us at one point and are not so now.
Not so obvious but equally ubiquitous is the idea of a destined career path. Somehow we, as a society, buy into the idea that people are all on their way up to some amazing place, some pinnacle of achievement within our careers. I encountered this as a salesman; people could not fathom that I wasn't trying to get promoted, to rise to the top. My career wasn't a path, it wasn't destined to bring me to a place of perfect happiness and achievement, it was just something to do that made money and which I felt reasonably content doing. Even if that were true retirement throws it entirely on its head. How does it make sense to spend a lifetime clawing your way to the top and then expect to be happy to leave the top and abandon the race entirely?
Destiny implies some sort of nirvana, a perfect existence we can aspire to. That isn't a thing that exists, and the idea of it encourages us to think of anyone not pursuing the same goals we are as being wrong. There is no such thing as destiny and there is no perfect ending, no happily ever after. There is just living, and trying to be happy while doing so. The further away we can get from the idea of destiny the easier it will be for us all to accept that life is messy, complicated, and full of potential awesomeness in all kinds of unexpected places.