By: Robin J. Engel

“Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen. Is there anyone on this plane that would like to take a later flight in return for a $500 voucher? It seems that we have overbooked.” Sometime, one person’s mistake is another person’s good fortune. 

The year was 2013. I’d left my job and decided to travel the world. 

First, I rented out my house. Then, I visited with family members around the country in preparation. I read books, made friends with people online who were traveling the world. I joined Couch Surfing and went to a few meetings. I gathered supplies. Teva waterproof sandals, a $70 pair of quick-dry, 50 spf pants with lots of security pockets and legs that roll up to shorts, a 50 spf hat, a really good rain jacket, a water purification straw, toilet wipes, and a really good backpack, oh, and underwear that dries quickly. And since I didn’t know where I might be, vaccines for yellow-fever and typhoid, and anti-malaria pills. 

I started blogging about my preparations. Everyone was psyched for me. I was all packed and ready to go to Chile. I boarded the plane. I had just snapped my seat belt when they asked who wanted a $500 voucher for their mistake of overbooking the plane. My hand shot up, and I got off the plane; it was only a 3 hour difference, plenty of time to write my blog.

I had just settled into my seat in the terminal when I got a call from my friend Jenny. She had been teaching at a school in Gilbert in a self-contained gifted classroom, but she was moving and they needed a replacement for her. Her principal wanted to know if she knew anyone who taught gifted and she thought of me. I told her thanks, but no thanks, I was going to travel the world and let the universe take me where it had in mind. Hadn’t she read my blog? Come on, she urged. Weren’t you looking for this kind of classroom for years?  Just give him a call. I agreed, if only to be cordial. 

Reluctantly, I called her boss. He said that I came highly recommended. I tried to come up with reasons why I should not take the job. Look, I told him, I believe in project-based learning. Good, he said, that’s exactly what we’re looking for. Also, I said, I need autonomy. I don’t do what the other teachers do. Sounds perfect, he said. Also, I said,  I happen to have a plane ticket for Chile already. I can’t disappoint all my blog readers.  Well, he reasonably argued, you do have 2 months in the summer to travel. Look, he said, take some time to think about, but I’ll need to know within the hour. Oh, and you’ll have to be here to start work on Monday. No pressure.

After I hung up the phone, I paced the terminal floor. My mind was reeling. I did have a pension, but it was a meager one. I had $7000 for my travels, but that was the extent of my liquid savings. My job skills were marketable, but I was getting older, and agism was actually a thing. I was driving myself crazy. That’s when I began rummaging through my backpack for a notepad to make a pro and con list, but instead I found a quarter. Perfect! I’ll keep it simple. I’ll flip a coin. Heads, I take the job, tails, I pursue my lifelong dream. 

Damn it! It came up heads. Aha! Silly me. I meant 3 out of 5 flips. I flipped again. Heads.. No, I meant 4 out of 7.  I flipped it 7 times and each time it came up heads. And although I still wasn’t convinced, somehow I found myself on the phone calling my new boss, accepting the job. 

I had told the universe that I was free to accept whatever was going to come into my life, and this is what came. I had to release everything in order to receive. So here’s how the universe made it all work in my favor. The one-way plane ticket that I needed to fly home on a moment’s notice was $458, but I had a $500 voucher. I called a friend in Gilbert and told her I didn’t have a place to stay, and she said that she happened to have a room to rent for $300 / month. I needed a car, put it out on FB, and within an hour I had 2 offers from friends who could rent me a car for the month. I got home on a Friday, shopped for new clothes on Saturday, shopped for groceries on Sunday, and went to work on Monday. I’m still at the school 6 years later, I travel every summer, and I will have a decent pension when I retire. The overbooked plane turned out to be the best mistake anyone ever made on my behalf.

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