It was noon on Friday, January 12, 2007, the last day of the semester. Most of my 11th and 12th graders, eager to get away for their half-day holiday, had already left. The few who were frantically trying to finish up overdue assignments were scattered around the tables and computers, hard at work or jostling for my attention in the queue. And then it happened. I opened my mouth to speak, and the words that came out made no sense at all. I blinked. I knew exactly what I wanted to tell this student. I tried again. Again, the words which came out made no contextual sense. I couldn't understand why, nor could I give him the help he so desperately wanted.

I made vain attempts to speak or use sign language before giving up

Overhearing the interchange and seeing my dilemma, a particularly intuitive learner (who had already completed the assignment) stood up and related to the quite confused student exactly what I wanted him to do and in what order. A tremendous amount of relief washed over me as I nodded my head. At this moment, the principal stuck her head in to confer about another student. I walked over to meet with her. Once again, the words coming out of my mouth made no sense, no matter how hard I tried to relate them. She hurried me to another room and ran to get help. I made vain attempts to speak or use sign language before giving up in anger and frustration. In a huff, I crossed my arms and waited in stoic silence for the EMT personnel to arrive.

The next few hours were a haze of activity and blur of mystification. I don't remember the two or three times the EMT personnel tried to start an IV. I was surprised when my ex-husband showed up. Why was he here, I thought? How did they know where to find him? Then my children arrived. Doubly mysterious. All the while, the kind colleagues who had accompanied me to the hospital, gently hovered over me, softly talking to me and assisting in whatever way they could. I was put into a hospital gown and told I was being admitted. Why, why, why all the fuss, I kept asking myself? This all seems so over-dramatic. I need to get back to school and get my grades in. They're due today.

Something calming rushed through my IV, and I was sent for tests. Within twenty-four hours, I would discover I needed immediate surgery for a malignant brain tumor near my speech center in my left temporal lobe, followed up with radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Now however, rolling down the hall strapped to a hospital gurney, I drifted into twilight remembrances of lessons I had taught this year about archetypal images in American History and English. As I was hefted onto the table in Radiology, I thought of Superman which had been my year's theme. I didn't know it at the time, but like the infant, Kal-El, sent away from the planet, Krypton, whose last sight is of being closed up into the narrow cylinder, my destiny was about to be forever changed as I was slid, a passive observer, into the white MRI tube, and the grid was closed over my face.

This is the kind of destiny which seems to call to us in dreams

Destiny, or preordination, is a peculiar thing. The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic religious movement, taught that "everything is by Divine Providence. If a leaf is turned over by a breeze, it is only because this has been specifically ordained by G‑d to serve a particular function within the purpose of creation." Many people today might disagree, and yet, this is the kind of destiny which seems to call to us in dreams. Perhaps, it is but a residual archetype from our long distant past. Perhaps, not.

For many of us, the word, destiny, is used interchangeably with the idea of mission, focus, or talent. This kind of destiny is often a personal response to natural talents or interests. And sometimes we humans experience our own destructive destinies which occur because of our painful attempts to force what we desire onto others or possess what they have.

But then, there is another kind of Destiny—the kind of surreal and life-changing event which forces us to stop traveling our ordinate paths and reassess the coordinate vectors of our lives. This kind of Destiny—like the seizures I experienced on January 12, 2007—may not be so much a destiny of pre-ordination as it is of re-ordination. Whether that re-ordination occurs in a moment, or over a series of days, months or even years, the person who experiences this kind of Destiny is never again the same. And perhaps, this is Good.

Much of my life has been spent as a traveler of ordinate points. Up and down the planes bounded by my life's choices I always walked the more or less fixed horizontal and vertical axes of "sameness." If I chose path y (a particular field of study, perhaps), then point x (a likely career) would eventually intersect with it at a specified point. Sometimes, a different choice, whether negative or positive, made a slightly different equation on my life's grid, but always, I seemed to travel over the same fixed and, by the time I was in my 50s, now deeply engrained paths.

And I was content, much as a garden flower, springing up from a wayward seed, grows along the cracks in the terrace walk. Unbeknownst to it, the foliage may be too small for its variety—and too yellow—but unaware of what is lacking, it still blooms and reaches for the light. And therein lies its Destiny, for every organism, whether you attribute its growth to biology, divine decree, or official intervention, is a creature of preordination. But sometimes, even that preordination is destined to change. And this change becomes the ordination of a new life, one ordained on the individual's own terms. These are the times when something traumatic happens, and the hard and rocky coordinate points of life which have hemmed us in are washed away in a terrifying storm of change.

I think my service to teaching helped make the world a better place

Of my own free will, I would never have left my students, my colleagues, or the teaching profession. In spite of a few difficult individuals, my many years on this path were served joyfully, and I think my service to teaching helped make the world a better place. Each individual student, teacher and parent—even the difficult ones— also made me a better person. I thank each one of the lives who briefly traveled their coordinated points near my destined path, for Teaching truly was my Destiny. Nothing will ever change that fact.

And yet. . . and yet, for years, another vision lay smoldering in the heavily banked embers of my soul. Oh, if I only could write, I thought. If I only had the time, talent, and money, I would write. "Write down the vision and make it plain upon tablets," said Habakkuk, and those words always seemed somewhat like my personal destiny. But I was afraid—afraid of failure, poverty, disappointment, and criticism. Now, much of the life I knew but a mere month ago—my job, my health, my home, even my ability to drive—have all been washed away by the sea change which struck me. But so have the well-worn ordinate paths of the fixed life I used to lead.

Henry David Thoreau's words to "simplify, simplify," taught so many times in class as the subject of utopian essays, also whispered to my heart throughout the years. But once again, as an individual, I was fearful of that change. Now however, life is very simple. Like Walden, the earth is clean and open before me, and the sky is blue and clear above me. Fear is banished, and only Hope remains. Re-ordination.

Today, clutching the things of my life which were well-rooted and strong (faith, love, gratitude, and the support of friends and family) I am left alive with new choices. And even though circumstances forced my hand in January, another future is now unfolding within it. My ultimate future may be unknown, but I believe it is still Ordained. And it is Good.