On the night of December 2nd/3rd, 2014, my life changed forever. That night, I learned one of the most important lessons of my life… Life doesn’t happen how and when you want it to happen, it happens how and when it’s supposed to happen. Knowing this can be frustrating, at times, but it also reminds me to remain calm and trust things to work out for the best.
I remember that brutally cold December night in North Dakota like it was yesterday. That day and evening had been just like any other. There was nothing special about it. Late that night, I finally decided it was time to go to bed, although I wasn’t tired at all. I crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling for two hours with no chance of falling asleep, so I turned on the TV. Golf Channel had a replay of a tournament airing, so I decided to watch that. There was no way to know that what was about to happen next would change my life forever.
I had been thinking for months about my future. I knew that, as my 30th birthday grew closer, I needed to make some changes in my life. As much as I loved the life I was living at the time, I just kept wondering how long I could continue to live like that. I was living my lifelong dream at that time. I got to travel every weekend, every night was a party, I was constantly surrounded by friends, I was meeting new people all the time, my life was filled with music. My life was perfect. Nothing could ever be better than living a lifelong dream, right? Why would I ever want to change anything?
At around 2:30 AM, a commercial came on that I had seen countless times before. The commercial was for Golf Academy of America. Of all the times I had seen that commercial before, I had never paid much attention to it. This time, I, for whatever reason, watched it closely. The commercial listed the locations across the U.S. where the school had campuses. Orlando stood out to me, because it was my favorite city I had ever visited, and was also a city that, after only visiting once, I told myself I would someday make my home.
I had attended college off and on for parts of six years in the past, before finally deciding I would rather travel across the country in a van with a band than sit in a classroom to earn a degree I had no interest in pursuing. I had no interest in going back to school, but, after seeing this commercial for Golf Academy of America, I thought, “IF I ever decided to go back to school, this golf school would be fun.” But, I was 100% set on never going back to school.
About 10 minutes after this commercial ended, I realized I had just spent 10 minutes thinking about what a golf school would be like and what living in Florida might be like. Anything that can grab my attention enough to make me keep thinking about it after it’s done seems like something that is worth looking into, so I decided to visit the school’s website and do a few minutes of research. That “few minutes of research” turned into reading the entire website, and, 4 1/2 HOURS later, as the sun was coming up, I texted my best friend and told him about this school. He knows me better than anybody, and probably even knows me better than I know myself. I asked him if I was completely crazy for considering the possibility that this school might be a good fit for me. The response I got shocked me. I figured he would tell me I was just reacting to the extreme cold weather and that it was just another crazy idea that I would forget about within a couple of days. Instead, he said he hadn’t seen me express that much excitement about anything in a long time, and that I should at least consider it.
That afternoon, I visited the school’s website again and requested more information about the school. I figured I would get something in the mail a week or two later. 45 seconds after submitting my contact info to the website, my phone rang. It was the Enrollment Specialist from GAA’s Orlando campus calling to answer any and every question I had about the school. I was stunned.
I was extremely cautious about telling people what I was looking into, because I kept waiting for people to tell me I was crazy for considering moving across the country to attend a golf school. One of my neighbors is somebody who has never really believed I would follow through with things I get excited about. He is the only person I told who just kinda rolled his eyes and blew it off. I carefully chose specific people to start telling about this idea of going back to school, and I was shocked when everybody kept telling me the same thing my best friend had told me. They all agreed that my excitement level was different this time. They all agreed that it was an opportunity for me to live in a place that I loved and to do something I would really enjoy… something I could do well. There was one person in particular that I was nervous about telling I was considering moving across the country. I kept telling myself that, if she thought it was a good idea, then I had to do it. Two days later, I told her. She faked a smile and said she was happy for me, then changed the subject. She looked crushed, and I thought she was going to cry. The next day, we finally had a chance to sit down and talk. I fully explained the situation, and ended up getting the response I was expecting. She said she didn’t want me to move away, but it was an opportunity that seemed so perfect for me that I would be stupid to not go for it. I don’t think she knows how much I valued her opinion, and I don’t know if I’ve ever told anyone that, if she had told me not to move, I wouldn’t have moved.
I kept in touch with GAA and started working toward officially applying to the school, but tried to do it without telling people, as much as possible. Two months later, I received a letter in the mail informing me that I had been officially accepted. It was then that I finally told my family that I was moving to Florida later that year. The reason I told a few of my friends, but no one in my family, was because of the responses I got from some of my family. I knew it was coming. The doubts. The eye rolling. The “You’re crazy” responses. At this point, it didn’t matter though. I had already been accepted and my mind was made up. I was moving to Florida. Three months later, I was in Orlando for the campus visit. I fell in love with the school immediately, and knew I was making the right decision. Just over three months after the campus visit, I packed up and moved to Orlando.
The process of basically hitting the restart button on my entire life began on an ordinary night. I wasn’t looking for it, it just happened. Life seems to find a way to always do that. You can search and obsess over things and never find the answers you hope to find. But, when you stop looking and just live your life, things start to fall into place when the time is right. I’m not suggesting that anybody should sit around and do nothing while waiting for things to magically happen, but just don’t try to force things to happen. If something in life is meant to work out, it will work out. The best things in life seem to come in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected times. Keep your eyes open and pay attention to what is happening. If something seems to be going in a positive direction in your life, let it happen. It may not be something you were looking for, but it might end up being the best thing that has ever happened to you. The things I have learned about myself and about the world in my 2+ years of living in Florida are things I needed to move here to discover. I have needed this time in my life to learn who I am and what I want. I needed this time to learn how life works. Knowing what I know now, this isn’t a surprise, but living by myself 1,500 miles away from my hometown has allowed me to look at my old friendships in a different way. Some people that I hung out with on a regular basis before I moved are people that I rarely, if ever, hear from anymore. Others that I only got to see occasionally before I moved have put in the effort to keep in touch since I moved. I have gotten to know some of those people better since I moved than I ever did when we actually lived in the same city. I now know how fortunate I am to have the quality of people that I have in my life.
I don’t know what the future holds for me. I guess none of us do. I am hoping that I will get to spend the rest of my life in Florida. North Dakota is where I grew up… it’s where I’m from. But, Florida is my home. I absolutely love it here. As I said though, things happen how and when they’re supposed to happen. As much as I don’t want to ever move back to North Dakota, if life happens, then it will happen. All I know for sure is that my life will never be the same again. It can’t be the same. I am not the same. I’m a different person than I was 2-3 years ago. The people who are the most important to me aren’t necessarily the same people who were the most important to me back then. My days of living a care-free, party every day lifestyle are done. That person doesn’t exist anymore. I do still like to have some drinks (maybe even get drunk) once in a while, but I don’t do it regularly anymore. I want to be successful. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to find “the one” and fall in love and get married. I want to start a family. I want to do things that make me happy with people who make me happy. Maybe that process has already begun. Maybe I am on the path to making those things happen. Maybe I am building toward a successful life. Maybe I am doing what I am on this Earth to do. Maybe the things I am doing are the reason I was born. Maybe I am making a difference in the world in some way. Maybe I have already found “the one”, but we just haven’t realized it yet. Maybe she’s even reading this right now. Maybe my current happiness and the new appreciation I have gained for life is just a small preview of what is to come for the rest of my life.
All I know for sure is that the best things in my life have always happened unexpectedly. When I have just been living my life, something has come from out of nowhere and changed my life. Things you never could have imaged suddenly take over your life. The people who come into your life aren’t in your life by accident. They’re there for a reason. Pay attention to them. Find out why they’re there. You might be surprised what you discover. You can plan and prepare for things, but life will always find a way to catch you off guard. It really is funny how life can change in an instant. When that change happens, let it happen.