People Share Their Real Life “Butterfly Effect” Stories

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The “Butterfly Effect” is the idea that one small change can lead to much larger and more consequential effects. In the following stories, we see how something as random as watching a commercial on TV, encountering a friendly embassy official, or taking a fortune cookie fortune seriously can end up drastically altering and in some cases saving lives.

Read on for some very strange and powerful stories of the Butterfly Effect!

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44. Moral Of The Story: Always Finish Your Beer

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My wife and I were having dinner in Hawaii one night on vacation. As we were getting up to leave, I noticed she hadn’t finished her drink (beer). I told her she should finish the drink since we paid some ridiculous price for it. Fast forward 30 seconds and we leave the restaurant and are walking the three blocks back to the hotel.

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About 50 feet in front of us as we’re walking (we’re walking down the sidewalk on the left side of the road), a car comes flying out of a side street from the right and crosses through the street, hops the sidewalk in front of us, and smashes into a wall. If she didn’t finish her drink, we would have been smoked by the car and most likely squished between the car and the wall. We always finish our drink now.

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43. This Gave Me Goosebumps

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I grew up speaking Spanish, so in high school my mom made me sign up for French. I didn’t really care, but figured whatever, at least it’s something new. I was a good kid, a bit of a cut up with absolutely zero direction. In that class, I met a girl and we sort of became friends. She got sick that year–cancer. It was horrible. I visited her in the hospital, got close to her family (still am), and she passed the following year. French, it turns out, was her favorite subject and her dream had been to study abroad. Her parents asked if we (her friends from that class) could do that for her. The years went on, and I worked every summer to try to save up to study abroad. I noticed the others who had made the promise weren’t making moves towards it, so I worked even harder. I finally went for a semester in my 3rd year.

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To be fair, I always enjoyed French, but it wasn’t a passion. Except that semester something kind of shifted. I came home, finished undergrad, then got into a Master’s program in French. The whole time, my friend’s mom was excited, feeling like my friend is somehow vicariously living through me. I graduated from with m Master’s and then moved back to France. I’ve been here 3 years now, and May 1st was the 11th anniversary of my friend’s death. As I type it out, it’s not so outwardly obvious, but the entire time it’s been so clear for me that she’s been with me on this journey. I’m now an English instructor at a university here.

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42. A Second Chance

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I was a straight A student in high school, working my butt off, studying several languages and taking extra courses, with the aim of getting into a prestigious university and studying the field which I was so passionate about. I got in there, but slipped into depression, failed so many courses that I almost got expelled, and got burned out trying to repeat all my failed exams, worsening my health even further. I dropped out, lost my job, and my family cut me off financially. I lived with a friend until another uni with a really bad reputation finally accepted me to let me continue my studies. The depression got worse to the point that I wanted to end my life, living from one minimum wage temp job to another, regularly dumpster diving behind the supermarket I sometimes filled the shelves in. I eventually graduated with almost the worst possible passing GPA and applied for graduate studies, as a bachelor’s degree in my field is basically worthless on the job market. Twenty-eight applications were rejected on the spot, until a prestigious university invited me to their assessment center. I originally applied ironically, as I was in the flow and thought, “Eh, what the heck.” I was baffled, but immediately scraped together my money to buy a ticket for the 8-hour train ride, slept in the central station hall, and went to the assessment center. Having had a rough night and a long trip, I was exhausted and in my tired state, went to the wrong interview room. The lady in there firmly asked who I was before I could turn around, and it turned out that she was the director of the program I was applying for. She told me to take a seat and interviewed me on the spot. She pulled up my CV from the database, briefly commented on my formerly assigned interviewer being a prick, and then just plainly asked me what happened. I told her everything. She listened and after 30 minutes, told me the time was up, but that she found it very interesting.

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I walked back to the central station, angry at myself for daring to dream that I would ever be allowed into such a university again after all my mess ups. I was ready to take my life, after my return, not being able to bear yet another failure. I walked up the stairs to the ticket vending machines, when my phone rang. It was the application center, offering me a spot in the program. For a moment, the earth stood still, and I broke down crying in disbelief. I spent the next weeks extremely anxious, wondering whether I would even manage to get that degree, thinking of my past failures and my GPA. But it turned out that the program structure, curriculum, etc. were exactly what I could ever have dreamt of, reigniting my passion for my field, getting me into an upward spiral of good internships, good grades, and new friends. I regained my self-confidence, and finally managed to get that depression under control. I also worked and studied up to 90 hours a week to make sure that I would never fail myself again – but in the end, without having stumbled into the wrong room and consequently getting a second chance by the director, this would never have happened and I would probably not be here today.

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41. If Not For McDonald’s, It Could’ve Been 60

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My girlfriend and I were on a road trip around the West Coast, and we had planned to spend a night in Las Vegas, go to Zion the following day, do some hiking there and return for another night in Las Vegas. When we woke up to prepare for the Zion trip, the coffee machine broke down in our hotel and we couldn’t get our morning coffee, so we decided to go to a nearby McDonald’s and get some coffee to go. When we got there, however, they informed us that they had run out of milk, which made us a bit angry, but there was supposed to be another McDonald’s around the corner, according to our GPS. We arrived at the second MCD just to find out it has been permanently closed. At this point, getting a milk coffee from McDonald’s had become our quest and we weren’t leaving Las Vegas without it. The third McDonald’s we tried to find only existed on the map. Not sure if it was recently closed or never existed in the first place. All nervous, we arrived at the fourth and final McDonald’s; we agreed that if they don’t get the coffee there, we’ll stop wasting time and go to Zion. To our biggest surprise, they had the coffee and milk, so we ordered and took the coffees to our car…only to find out that we were served the wrong order. After they replaced the order, we laughed the situation off and went to Zion.

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We returned to Las Vegas late in the evening, just before 10 pm. We started preparing to go out, as we had planned to check out the Harvest Country Music Festival that was happening on the strip. We knew it was already late, but we thought we’d go anyway. We turned on the TV just before leaving and all over the news they were talking about some shooting in Las Vegas. We decided that it had happened sometime before and went out. We were stopped at our hotel exit by a policeman telling us to remain in our room. We had wasted at least an hour in the morning, trying to get a coffee, if this wouldn’t have happened, we would have made it to the festival on time. 58 people were shot dead that night at that festival. If not for McDonald’s, it could’ve been 60.

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40. They Really Are Man’s Best Friend

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When I was a kid, my dad got me a puppy without checking with my mom first. She was furious, of course, but eventually bonded with the dog, and loved her. That dog died of cancer just before her 8th birthday. My mom said absolutely no more dogs. Ever. Within two weeks, she had adopted a sweet mutt from the local animal shelter. Shortly after, I brought home a mutt of my own. Her dog was female and mine was male. She complained constantly about my dog, because he was “too big” (he weighed 45-50 lbs).

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About four or five years later, my dad had what we would later find out was a seizure in his sleep and stopped breathing. My mom’s dog woke her up frantically barking and nudging my dad’s hand. My mom gave my dad a good shake and he started breathing again. His eyes were open, but he was not responsive. Mom came barreling down the stairs to get me and my dog came with us. He actually passed us as we were going down the hall and takes a running leap into my parents’ room from the doorway and lands on the bed about seven feet away. He puts one paw on either side of my dad’s face and began licking his face, from chin to forehead. My dog was not a licky dog, and this was totally out of character for him. A moment or two later, my dad responded and said, “Get off of me, you silly hound,” while gently pushing my dog to the side. My boy stopped immediately and laid down on the other side of the bed, watching my dad closely. It took a while to get a diagnosis, but the response from the animals made them look for seizures first. He’s fine now, seizure-free and no meds. But if we hadn’t gotten our first dog 20 years ago and lost her young, leading my mom to the shelter to find the next dog, and me to where I found my boy, my dad would have been dead for the last 13 years. Both of the dogs are gone now, and lived long, happy lives.

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39. An Overdrawn Bank Account Led To Four Marriages And Five Kids

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I was just out of high school and new in town with no job. I was living off what savings I had left and my account went below zero without me knowing. I was overdraft charged like 10 times and owed over $300. I went down to the bank, spoke with a teller and she ended up being a lifesaver. She worked with me and got all the charges removed. On top of getting the charges removed, we got to talking about my situation and she said that her son worked at a local restaurant and she would help me get a job. She was a woman of her word and by the end of the week, I was working full time.

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Fast forward, I meet a cool dude who worked there and we became friends. I introduced him to my sister, and they fell in love, got married and had two kids. His best friend came into town for the wedding and I introduced him to my roommate at the time, and they fell in love, got married and had two babies. I also got my best friend a job at the restaurant, where he met a girl working there, they fell in love, got married and had a kid. Right before I left, I got my other roommate a job at the restaurant, where he met a customer, fell in love, got married and had a kid. As a bonus, my best friend, who I helped get the job, repaid the favor and got me a job at a different restaurant, where I met a girl, fell in love and got married.

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38. Making The World A Better Place

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There’s a guy that I used to know. He was the brother of a friend of a friend who I grew to know, care about, and share laughs and tears with; he was generally a good influence on me. I liked him a lot because he reminded me of me. I was the one that, through some sheer dumb luck, that had spread my wings a little, experienced things, tried things, done things. Here he was, had never had a girlfriend, never been to a steakhouse…and it was something that bothered him and his family too. We decided on his 22nd birthday, we would take him out to experience things and help him find his path. He’d really live life: he’d enjoy a proper steak, he’d know the loving embrace of a woman, and we’d generally give him a year of trying new everything. Then he went to see a doctor about his cough. It turned out he had a very aggressive cancer. From diagnosis to grave, six weeks. I’ve been to a few funerals to bury friends, but his was the hardest. It was 10 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was gutted, more so than someone who didn’t know him that well should have been, because I knew that it could just as easily have been me. I resolved there and then to live the life that he had been denied, applied for a Hail Mary job at Microsoft, got the job, and it led onto bigger and better things.

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I also used a ton of my resources to change the world as much as I could, including working closely with a good friend of mine to launch a cancer cycling team which has since raised over a million dollars and has gone from “highly experimental” to “nearing medical approval and needs to become a permanent and viable treatment in cancer” for children. I shared this story most recently with a really great friend of mine who asked for help moving, then suddenly canceled. It turned out that he had surgery to remove a cancerous organ growth that day. He hadn’t realized that every day I wake up and try so hard in my life to make the world a better place was because someone who was just like me died back then and never got that chance. I’ll keep doing that until I die, in honor and memory of him. RIP Gavin K, September, 1985 to January, 2008. You inspired me to be so much more than I was.

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37. Glad I Missed Out On My Class

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Back in high school, I didn’t get into the AP history class wanted. I changed up my schedule, including a different gym class, without everyone I knew. I was heartbroken. I really wanted to teach, and without an AP class senior year, I was screwed. I made a new friend in gym class, who was wearing a volunteer firefighter shirt. He had just joined. It seemed interesting, and he invited me to check it out. They paid for me to become an EMT. I fell in love with healthcare.

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Fast forward quite a while, and I’m an ER nurse and “precept” students and new nurses, teaching them how to survive in the ER. I also do public outreach and injury prevention. And I love it. Glad I missed out on my class.

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36. Saving Dad’s Life

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When I was in grade 6, I won a scholarship from my local council to pay for my books and school stuff to go into high school the next year (high school is 7th-12th grade in Australia). Because I wasn’t being told anything about this yet, my dad talked to my mum in the garage and put me inside the house so I wouldn’t listen in. The TV was left on and a random ad I had never seen was playing about a new psoriasis treatment trial that needed volunteers. I knew my dad had it bad and the number showed on the screen. I remembered the number but didn’t write it down. I told my dad about it and he wrote the number on a box in the garage.

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Two weeks later I see the number and asked if he called and he said no. It was weird because I usually didn’t remember phone numbers at that age and normally my dad wouldn’t write on a box. But he actually decided to call up and they booked him in for a medical screen for a pre-health test. During the test the next month, they found his blood pressure was so high he should have been dead. Like, right there dead (I think it was 245 bpm and he was 58). He was given medication for the next few years which prevented the strokes and heart problems from killing him. Had he not had the medication, he would have died within the next month or two. All because my parents didn’t want to spoil the surprise of a scholarship and put me inside to talk. I also have never seen that ad or any medical volunteering ads on TV ever again.

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35. She Met A Beautiful Light In Her Darkest Hours

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I had left an ex who was physically and mentally abusive. I had attempted suicide several times and was admitted to a psychiatric care unit. There, I met a girl named Lucy, whose mother was from Greece. She and I became good friends and we made plans to go on a trip to Greece together and hit all the ancient spots. We got the help we needed and each left the care unit and even moved in together. We became more like sisters; we loved each other. Two months before our trip, I was meant to go collect some books that had arrived for us in our local bookstore but I’d had a bad day at work and was exhausted. Lucy volunteered to go. As she left the shop, a car came onto the curb and hit her. She was killed instantly. They never caught the driver. Her mother encouraged me to take the trip anyway and asked if I could take some of my friend’s ashes to scatter into the ocean when I got to Greece. I agreed.

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As I was doing so in Athens, a man came up to me and asked me if I was OK, as I was crying. He was very nice and offered me a coffee in his cafe to help me calm down. That man was named Luca and he studied mythology and archaeology for fun. I study mythology for fun. I extended my trip by a month to stay with him. He let me stay in his apartment and insisted I stay as long as I needed. When I spoke to Lucy’s mother, it turns out that she knew Luca’s mother; they had gone to school together. We have been together for ten years now, married for eight and have twin daughters. Lucy’s mother is godmother to our girls.

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34. How I Got Cleaned

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I was driving home to Missouri from New York and got pulled over in Ohio at about 2 am. I had just smoked a spliff in the car, and about five minutes prior I had pulled off to rail some molly, both of which I had a pretty decent amount of in the car. The cop asked me if I knew why he pulled me over, and told me I was speeding and he had me clocked at 89 in a 70, but I knew I had been going much faster than that. I gave him my license and registration, he went to his car, came back, gave me a ticket for speeding and left, which as far as I was concerned was a supreme stroke of luck. Fast forward two weeks. I had spent another weekend in New York, but this time I flew. I got very, very wasted, blacked out, missed my flight home, and paid an exorbitant amount of money to get on another flight so I could be at work the next day. I was driving to work Monday morning and was having very, very intense cravings for coke, which I had a pretty rough problem with. It was so bad I couldn’t even drive and had to pull over to recollect myself. I was hating myself because I couldn’t stop using, no matter how much I wanted to stop.

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As I pulled up to work, I remembered my speeding ticket. I looked to see when it was due, which I figured would be a while, but the date was set for Wednesday. My boss recommended a great lawyer and called him up, and he said he’d get me in that afternoon. This guy was way out of my way and usual stomping grounds, but I needed to do something so I went out to meet him. I had been looking at Narcotics Anonymous meetings and after I met him I decided I’d just go to a meeting out that way, since it didn’t really make sense for me to drive out of my way again to do that. So that night I went to my first NA meeting, in an area I never would have gone to had I not needed to meet the lawyer. And here we are, two years and three months later, still clean, and still going to that same meeting every Monday night.

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33. Thanks To My Cheating Girlfriend

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I was living in Florida and on my birthday, my girlfriend of three years tells me she cheated on me. This led my friend and I to go for a walk on the beach to discuss it. On the beach, we were mugged by three men. This made me decide I hated Florida and I made the decision to move to Seattle. With no money and in a new city, I took a job at Starbucks. I served drinks to a Czech woman who worked next door and was there on a 6-month work and travel visa. She was leaving for LA in one week and would be back to the Czech Republic in two weeks. I asked her if she wanted to hang out. After one week, she left but missed me and decided to fly back to Seattle for two days before going home. I picked her up at the airport and asked her to marry me–she said yes. She left for home and finds out her father has pancreatic cancer. He was supposed to be dead before she would even come home, so he never told her.

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I quit my job and flew to the Czech Republic. He walks her down the aisle and was my best man. I find a temp job in the Czech Republic, then join a small start-up with 50 people. I start in customer service, but work on tech projects. The company proceeds to explode and becomes huge (3,000 people). I become a Senior Tech Manager. That was a brief history of my past five years, how I met my wife, and how I got my job. All because my girlfriend cheated on me.

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32. Loyalty Paid Off

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I received an incredibly high paying job offer to run our biggest competitor’s team. I told my boss, even though I loved my job, but it was more than double what I was making. My boss agreed to a reasonable raise, but still not near the offer. I decided to stay because I genuinely loved my team/coworkers, and the money wasn’t enough to leave that happy place. In exchange, I had to take up another account that meant a business trip I didn’t have in the plans.

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I went on that trip and met my future husband. A couple of years later, we went on our honeymoon at a new resort in St. Lucia. I ran into someone I knew from home/work. It turns out that the team that I’d been given the job offer for had made so much money that they had booked the same resort to celebrate. I sat there and went WOW. Life is crazy! Would’ve ended up there, either way.

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31. Family Reunion

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When I was 12, I asked my mom, “What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?” After thinking about it, she responded by telling me that when she was 20, she had a baby girl that she placed for adoption. That out-of-the-blue conversation prompted her to put her contact info on an adoption registry website.

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Six months later, the baby girl was now 19 years old– and she found some of her old adoption papers while her dad was looking for the deed to their house. It was a closed adoption, but one of the papers mistakenly had her birth mother’s full name on it. She googled it, only to find the website that our mom has registered through just six months earlier. We are coming up on the 13th anniversary of the day my sister found us. She’s my best friend and I am forever grateful for her.

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30. They Looked At Each Other And Never Looked Back

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Not me, but my grandpa. His first wife cheated on him with his best friend, so understandably he was very pissed and wanted to get away. His aunt had recently moved to Australia and he figured he might as well start a new life there, but he already had two kids with his ex and she was worried he wouldn’t pay child support if he left the country. She went and got his passport taken away under the premise that he was trying to flee his responsibilities, so he wasn’t able to leave.

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The day after his supposed departure he went to get drunk at an old colleague’s housewarming party and met my grandmother, who was there on a date with another man. They looked at each other and never looked back,  been married 52 years and are as in love today as back then. If his ex-wife wouldn’t have been so worried about payments, my grandpa would’ve gone to Australia, my grandma probably married her date and I would not exist!

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29. The Train Ran Right On Time

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All the way back in 1989, I was on a round-the-world trip. I had been traveling through Australia, South-East Asia and China. To get back to Europe I decided to take the Trans-Siberian railway through Mongolia and what was then the Soviet Union. In pre-internet days and with China and the Soviet Union not exactly tourist-friendly countries at the time, this wasn’t super-easy. I had to organize all my own visas, train tickets, etc. When I got to Beijing, the hotel I stayed at had free loan bicycles and so I grabbed one and made my way around to the city to try and find the Mongolian embassy to get a visa. There was only one train running each week, so I was desperate to get this organized as soon as possible, partially because I was low on money, but I was also quite homesick by now. I’d already gotten a train ticket and a Soviet visa in Hong Kong, but I still needed a visa for Mongolia. Again, this is pre-internet, pre-google maps days. I had a street map but just couldn’t find that bloody embassy.

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At long last, I got lucky and found it. But by then they were just shutting the gates. Business hours were over for the day (at 3 pm!). If I couldn’t get a visa, I’d not be able to get on this week’s train. My train ticket would be worthless and I’d have to wait a full week for the next train, plus I’d need a new Soviet Visa too. So I pleaded with the guard. Eventually, he relented and let me in. There was still someone in the office and because they were keen to finish off for the day, they pretty much just put the sticker in my passport and shuffled me out the door. All set, I got on the train the next day and had an amazing time, going through Mongolia, the Soviet Union, spent a few days in Moscow and then headed via Finland and Scandinavia back home. The week after I was on the Trans-Siberian train, there was a massive gas explosion caused by a leaking gas pipeline and triggered by a passing train. Over 500 people died. If the Mongolian embassy guard hadn’t let me through, I probably would have ended up being on that train.

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28. The Set Up

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This sounds corny and fake but I swear this happened. I moved away to college and was enrolled in one of those “university 101” classes, where they teach you how to college effectively. Every freshman has to take it. The first day of this class rolls around and this girl walks in and sits down. She’s the most beautiful human being I’ve ever seen in my life. Of course, she had a boyfriend and was way out of my league, so I just silently was in love with her for the whole semester.

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Fast forward to the summer before my senior year — I still think about this girl all the time. I had a dream about her one night, and the next day, one of her friends (who I know lives with her because I am a creep) invites me over to their house to play Edward 40 hands. I had no interest in this girl who invited me over, and I thought that my dream girl was still in a relationship, but something told me that having this dream about her the night before was a sign that I should just go over there and get drunk. Apparently she had been single for a while and had also actually had a crush on me the whole time we were at school, and her friend invited me over to set us up. One dumb pick-up line later and I had her number. We now are in our mid-20s living together with our puppy, and I think I’m going to pop the question soon.

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27. The Start Of A Streaming Career

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In early 2014, I was playing GTA Online and a random player drove up to me, got out and saluted while I had my gun pointed at them. We partied up and after a few months, he persuaded me to buy Black Ops 2 which caused me to get involved in the YouTube community based around the game (specifically Faze Clan). This made me want to make my own channel and videos which caused me to become untested in media as a whole.

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One of these YouTubers used a song in his video that really appealed to me for some reason. (All Time Low – Jon Bellion) This caused me to find a new interest in music as a whole and through his music, I found all the artists that I listen to regularly today. I would 100% be on a different career path had I not been involved in any video production. Ultimately, my future career will be different had I have decided to shoot this random player in GTA.

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26. The Chinese Food Gave Me Directions

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I had been looking for direction, and went out for Chinese food one day. In my fortune cookie was a fortune that said, “To teach is to learn twice.” I thought hard about it, and it led me to apply for a job at a local school as an ESL instructor.

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Well, two years later, there was an earthquake in Taiwan which caused many English teachers to leave. The school I was working for asked if anyone was interested in replacing those teachers at its sister school — I signed up, got a promotion there, then a wife, dog, son, and daughter. All because I like Chinese food.

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25. The Piercing

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Getting my ears pierced the day after I graduated high school got me where I am today. I worked at McDonald’s at the time and was scheduled to work that night. Before my shift, my girlfriend at the time convinced me to get my ears pierced. Well, when I showed up to my shift with these clear ear studs in, my manager gave me an option. Either take them out, or go home. Being only 17 and not taking anything seriously, I went home. On my way home, I called that girlfriend’s dad, and asked if I could work with him laying tile. He gave me a chance, and I quit McDonald’s that day. I worked with him for about a year until the 08’/09’ recession caused us to run out of work. I got laid off.

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Four months later, I land a job in a new hospital doing admitting in the emergency room. I did that for two years before I got my phlebotomy certification. I’ve been doing that for a few years and now I’m in my final semester of nursing school. I attribute everything I’ve done to that day my ex-girlfriend pressured me into getting my ears pierced. Who knows how long I would have stayed at McDonald’s.

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24. The Invitation

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I agreed to go to the campus with a girl I’m no longer friends with (heck, I wasn’t so sure about her to begin with) a couple of weeks before classes started just to walk around. We met up with another one of her friends on campus. A couple of weeks later, I was facilitating a group in a class and the guy she introduced me to joined my group with a bunch of his friends since he recognized me.

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I ended up becoming friends with all of them and taking another class with one of the gals and her then-boyfriend (now husband). We started hanging out a lot outside of class and they eventually introduced me to the boyfriend’s best friend who is now my husband of 6.5 years. We are still good friends with all of these people and our kids play together. I often think about how if I hadn’t gone out that one night with that one girl, I may never have met my husband.

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23. Buy One Take One

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Ethiopia was hit with one of the worst famines in human history. There was also a civil war. The year was 1994. My twin brother and I were given up to an orphanage by our mother who could no longer feed or keep her toddlers safe. She was sick and alone. On the other side of the world, a couple applied for adoption from Ethiopia. They couldn’t have their own baby. They desperately wanted a baby. But only one.

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The orphanage nun told my twin and I that, one of us had a family to go to. It was my brother. We both knew that we could not let this happen. This was our biggest fear. We begged them to ask the family to take us both. We prayed and we wept. After some months, we found out that they would take us both. Twenty-two years later, we are both doing well (he is a teacher and I’m at law school) and making the most of our privileged lives. I sometimes wonder what would happen if they only adopted one of us. Or neither of us. Gives me chills.

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22. Gamer’s Cafe

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I was searching for a first-time job and my sister told me about this little board-game cafe that was recruiting. I applied and since it was my first CV ever (didn’t have much experience to include in it). I mentioned that I’m into graphic design and know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. I was hired! It wasn’t a best paying job and I was a bit salty about it but hey, there was this guy who worked there, who right now happens to be my boyfriend of two years. But this isn’t all, because my bosses asked me to do some posters for the cafe and it was my first time ever designing for money! And later they told me that it was once they saw the GRAPHIC DESIGN on my application–they decided to hire me!

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Today I work for another company run by one of the cafe’s owners; I’m the main graphic there and earn quite a lot for a student! I also often get freelancer commissions–all are recommended by people who know me from the time I used to make coffee for them. I cannot love this place more!

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21. Water Bottle Story

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I was at uni. The headmaster was fond of me because I always wore combat boots and leather jackets. But I would debate useful things to implement in school. So he’d call my best and me to his office to discuss and sometimes gave us free stuff. Once he gave us water bottles again and I didn’t want to carry it, so I called a girl who was hanging by and asked if she wanted it. She seemed reluctant since we didn’t know each other, and my friend also said I had put it into my pants. I laughed and just said I already had too many of those and didn’t need another one. She accepted and we went on our way.

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Surprisingly, later on, she started talking to me and long story short, she became my girlfriend. We drift apart for a year after breaking up, when we met again; it was like a fire got into me. I wanted to be better. I started working hard and made lots of improvements in my career. But I needed a better job if I wanted to continue going to museums and do stuff with her. So I tried it. I ended up in the fashion industry, which is my favorite. I wouldn’t have improved and got a job into stuff I love if I didn’t had that extra water bottle.

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20. Because I Went Bowling

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I went to college but never finished a degree, so in the early 90s I was just bumming around and doing a couple of odd jobs. One night, me and my couple of friends decide to go bowling for something to do. Instead of the bowling alley in the neighborhood, we decide to mix it up a bit and go over to another suburb where I lived a few years ago. We play a couple of games and then another group comes in and takes the empty lane next to us. One of the guys in the group is a guy I went to high school with and hadn’t seen in a couple of years. We get to talking and he mentions he works for a small local software company and they are looking for some support people. And he says “you were always interested in computers, yeah?” Which I was, having had computers since the old microcomputer days in the late 70s.

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Long story short, he gets me an interview, I get the job (presumably with a little inside help from him), grow into the role, then when the company is bought I move into IT and now I run multiple data centers for my current company. All with no degree, and only possible because I got my foot in the door to get experience with that one small software company.

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19. The Gym Session

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Deciding to work out with my friend at the gym one day during my senior year of college. My friend’s normal gym partner couldn’t go with him so he asked me, and I decided to go. We were talking about jobs for after we graduate, and he mentioned how in his future he’d like to maybe work in Europe at some point. That thought had never even crossed my mind before, but when I got home I thought that also may be an interesting idea.

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I looked up popular jobs abroad, and decided to apply for a job as an English language assistant in Spain. The program that I applied for had their deadline the day that  went to the gym. I was accepted, ended up loving the job, and I am still living in Spain two years later. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I had never said yes to going to the gym that day with my friend.

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18. Just A Swipe

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I was pretty lost after graduating from university. I ended up having a few too many drinks, installing Tinder, and swiping exactly one time. I matched with the first person and we started dating, doubled down on staying in that state rather than going home.

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I got a crappy job for no money that ended up working out tremendously, promoting me, sending me overseas to an amazing new country and paying off six figures of student debt in three years with money in the bank. All because I moved my finger slightly to one direction.

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17. The Arrest

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I got arrested for growing pot, and moved back home. I got the first job I could at Ikea. After working there for over a year, I randomly decided to check Craigslist for jobs and saw an opening at a cafe and they were hiring right then, so I instinctively went for it.

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The cafe was connected and owned by one of the most popular brewpubs/beer gardens in the area. They hired me to host there, and I quickly worked my way up the ranks to eventually bar manager. I met the girl of my dreams, and we are now married with two amazing kids. I opened two more restaurants with them and currently the assistant director of operations, overseeing three restaurants @3, 5, and 8 million a year in sales! I love my job, my family and my life. No idea what I’d be doing if I never got arrested, or never applied for the cafe job.

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16. Hey, Google!

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Getting off the waitlist for college. Originally, I had planned to go to state school on a full-ride for their pharmacy program, despite having zero interest in pharmacy. It was mostly at the insistence of my parents. I knew I wanted to go into some type of tech-related field, but I felt basically forced into a career path I knew I’d hate.

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I got off the waitlist at Duke and started taking electrical engineering courses immediately. I graduated and started my career in cybersecurity consulting for a few years before recently switching to a program manager position at Google, a company that I thought would always be a pipe dream. If not for Duke giving me a chance, I may be doing paperwork at a pharmaceutical company or working for the pharmaceutical company at a pharmacy store.

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15. Hummingbird Effect

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I was in a very abusive relationship and very depressed. Everything I did was for this person and his child; I had nothing for myself. I got up early and went to bed late to make their lives run and had nothing for myself. I got an email from my college advisor saying that there was a volunteer opportunity to catch hummingbirds at a local park. The experience would help build my resume and while my abusive partner was angry that I went, it didn’t impact him that much. While it bothered me that he was mad at me, I decided I could live with the manchild’s silent treatment for a few days if it meant I could get a job after college and have a few hours of happiness just for me.

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So I go and catch hummingbirds two or three times. I invite the manchild to bring his son and he says it’s too much work. I say that’s fine; I’m not getting up at 5 am to get his son dressed and out the door and then babysitting while I’m trying to network. Manchild is ticked. Silent treatment ensues. I end up meeting a guy about my dad’s age who is the guy over the hummingbird project; he is certified to band them and comes occasionally. He tells me there’s an internship for next summer and I should apply. Come spring, the same opportunity comes around and I’m invited back to catch hummingbirds. The guy is there again and says the applications are open and I should apply. I’m too afraid because it means moving to a different city and I knew my abusive partner wouldn’t allow that.

Fast forward, I found out he was cheating on me and had been for a while. He told me I should kill myself and when I said he wasn’t worth dying over, he threatened to kill me. I got some of my stuff with my mom’s help (he kept a lot of things that were important to me and threw them away because he’s a prick) and decided the rest I could replace or deal with the loss of. He had his shiny new 19-year-old girlfriend (10-year difference between him and her) move her stuff in while I moved my stuff out. He left my account negative $200 and went to my boss and told lies about me and tried to get me fired and expelled from college (thankfully it didn’t work and almost got him arrested). I should have taken it to court but I didn’t. I just cut and ran and tried to rebuild my life and figure out who I was.

I graduated with my bachelor’s degree two months later. I spent a lot of time painting and reading self-help books my mom helped me find. I finally applied for the hummingbird internship even though I thought it was probably filled. I got a call that there were only two other applicants with no biology experience and he wanted me to take the internship. I accepted. I went on a week-long trip to Iceland with my best friend who helped me through all the awfulness of the break-up. When I came back, I was happier and much more healthy and felt like I had a grip on life, as I’d been working a lot and I finally had some money in my account again. My parents helped me find a place to stay in this city 3.5 hours away from home, which ended up being a trailer behind the office I worked for (thanks boss!!!). This made it possible for me to take the internship.

I spent more time figuring out who I was. Even getting to choose what I wanted to eat for dinner was more freedom than I had had in years. Choosing what kind of pasta and sauce. What I bought at the grocery store. What movie I wanted to watch. When I went to bed. It was freedom. I was finally a human being again. And I was happy! My boss quickly became my friend and work was more like play. I was so happy that I had completed my degree. My boss told me we’d be leading some foreign students on a 6-mile hike and catching hummingbirds and snakes and lizards to entertain them and teach them about the American West, and it’d be a paid day of work. Sweet! Well, I woke up late but had put makeup on because my mom wanted me to get pictures with the students. What I didn’t know was their American teachers brought two of their sons along to help with the eight students. One was a year younger than me (let’s call him Preston), I found out, and very handsome. His parents were super fun to talk to and his brother was pretty cool, if shy. I found out that Preston and I had literally everything in common. We even watched the same series of movies the week before. So I ask if he wants to keep in touch; he says yes and we swap numbers (FINALLY). He asks if I’m busy later, because he’d love to buy me a drink at the little pub in town. I got nervous. I swore off dating the week before and let EVERYONE KNOW. And then this guy comes along. I ended up saying yes.

So we go on this date and we ended up closing the bar down and talking in the parking lot for two hours after closing. I tell my dad about it the next morning and my boss teases me and says it must have gone well because I’m in a pretty good mood. I visit home for the weekend and tell my parents the long version of meeting this guy and my dad says he likes him already and asks me if I just met my soul mate. I’m thinking probably. Fast forward to now, five months later. He treats me not just as a human being capable of and allowed to make mistakes, but like a queen. I’m happier and healthier physically and mentally than I have been in six years, and I’ve repaired a lot of family relationships. And I really owe it to that decision to go volunteer and catch hummingbirds last fall. It started bringing everything to a head because I was trying to be an actual independent person and my ex didn’t want that. And now everything has completely turned around! Trust your college advisors. Practice self-care. Don’t let anyone destroy who you are. Say yes to more good things and fewer bad things. So much can change in less than a year.

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14. Mom’s Homesickness

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Back in the 80s, my mom studied abroad in England. A couple of days before her flight back home to the US, she got too homesick to wait any longer and spontaneously bought a ticket home early.

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The flight she was originally supposed to take was Pan Am flight 103, where all 243 passengers and 16 crew died. If not for her homesickness, her and my dad would not have met and my brother and I would not have been in existence.

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13. A Poetic Love Story

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I was encouraged to enter a poetry competition by my teacher when I was about 17. There was a cash prize, so I decided after some convincing that I would give it a try. I ended up winning, and my poem became published. A couple of months later I get a message on Facebook from a girl who would like to know more about the poem, because she has to analyze it in connection with her upcoming exam.

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It turns out her and I are about the same age, so we decide to meet up and discuss it. We’ve been together for four years now and we’re getting married next month. I often wonder what my life would look like if my teacher hadn’t approached me back then.

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12. A Beary Unexpected Encounter

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When I was 15 or so a Louisiana black bear ran across the road in front of my car. I’m way out of their native range and it really struck a chord with me. It triggered my decision to focus on wildlife management going forward.

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I have my degree now and work with alligators, but I’ve worked with bears in the past. All because me and some lost bear crossed paths on a rainy night.

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11. A Wonderful Escape

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I’m alive because my aunt was born. My grandfather was conscripted into the Romanian army as a medic, and his unit was one of the many acting as a defensive barrier, covering the Nazi supply lines to Stalingrad. My aunt was born and he was called back to Bucharest from the front. While he was on leave, the Russians launched Operation Uranus, which decimated the axis forces. He received word that his unit had been completely destroyed. He was never reassigned and in 1948, my mother was born.

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I’m also alive because a bunch of Romanian cows got sick. My other grandfather was a pharmacist, back when that meant actually making medicines. He was also a Jew. The town he lived in was largely agrarian and their cow herds came down with some illness that was killing them. He whipped something up that cured them. The townspeople were very grateful to him. So grateful that when the chief of police heard that the Nazis were coming to town to take inventory of who lived there, he came to my grandfather’s house with some train tickets for him and his wife. They escaped the Nazis, and never got caught. My father was born at the end of 1945.

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10. My Life Could Be So Much Different

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When I was a kid, my parents had a pretty good life for themselves in Mexico. Then they got caught up in this “sounds too good to be true” pyramid scheme that was too good to be true. They pretty much lost everything, all their savings, their house, and there were a few people that were furious with them for getting them involved in that scheme. One woman, in particular, became obsessed with my mom, calling all the time, leaving threatening notes at the door, and even showing up at places we were going.

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My parents started to worry that she might try to do something to harm me, so they decided to move to the U.S. far away from her and start over. Had my parents not gotten involved in that pyramid scheme, which got that crazy lady after them, causing them to pack up and move to another country, my life could be so much different right now. I often wonder how things would have been for me if I had grown up in Mexico instead of Chicago.

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9. A Lifesaving Snack

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My mom used to take pain medicine because she had a rare bone disease that caused her pain. She had a sitting walker as well that she used to get around the house. She would take the pain meds at night, but she would be so out of it that she would hurt herself. My mom was always a snacker too, so she would sneak to the kitchen despite being heavily medicated.

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One evening she went and made herself popcorn, missed where she was supposed to turn and fell down six steps. She cracked her skull open, knocked herself out cold. Long story short, after going to the hospital, they found out she had cancer. But they had caught it so early, so it was easily treated. She made it through chemo and stayed in remission. She has since passed away, but I always think, what if she wouldn’t have fallen down the stairs? The cancer could have gotten worse and she could have died years before she was supposed to, all because she wanted a bowl of popcorn!

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8. Gilmore Girls

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A friend of mine suggested we run a 5K together–not one of those real 5Ks, but one of those glow runs or whatever. That friend gets sick, and he lets another friend take his spot. That friend is much more friendly to strangers, so at the 5K, she becomes friends with random drunk women (yup, a very fake 5K). Those drunk women tell her to watch Gilmore Girls, for whatever reason.

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My friend and I end up watching the show, and I, a first-gen college student that went to a high school where 60% of students end up going to community college, decide to apply to Yale because Rory Gilmore seemed to be having a fun time. And I got in. Thanks, Rory Gilmore!

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7. The Nazi Soldier’s Cruelty Led To New Life

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My mother and her five siblings were deported to Auschwitz in May of 1944. Soon after arriving by “train,” my mother was placed into a line of people assigned to “take showers” after their long trip. My mother was 13 and was holding her mother’s hand, obviously very frightened. A Nazi soldier spotted this and ordered my mother out of the line and into another line, which was for the work camp. The soldier had apparently seen my mother holding her mother’s hand and thought it would be funny to separate them and make my mother cry, which she did. My grandmother told my mother not to worry; she’d see her later. My mother went to the other line and was quickly taken away to the barracks.

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My grandmother was gassed to death about 15 minutes later, along with one of my uncles. My mother worked in the labor camp from May of 1944 until the Russians liberated Auschwitz in January of 1945. She lived with her older sister in Romania for a few years after that and eventually met a man who would become my father. I’m sitting here, writing this over 75 years after that Nazi soldier cruelly separated my mother from her mother. He unwittingly ensured that I would be born and so would my brother and my four children. Had he sneezed, or turned away or was somehow distracted from his duties, possibly thinking about some fraulein or another, and didn’t separate my mother, I would not be here today.

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6. A Misdiagnosis Led To Her Dream Job

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I had loads of tests done when I was 19 due to severe mental health issues out of nowhere. One specialist suggested that I had malabsorption which was causing my brain to be starved of vital nutrients (that’s the short version). So she suggested I cut out gluten and I may have coeliac disease. So I lived for 12 years as a coeliac. I set up my own bakery company for vegan and gluten-free cakes and breads (basically due to hunger and jealousy of everyone else’s food!), won loads of awards and got offered a job in product development then a role to run my own restaurant, my dream job! I did that for a while and then left to run a consultancy business and now do product development for a dream company.

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Seven years ago, I got invited to brunch with some friends. I’m not used to going out to eat much unless there are gluten-free options. Luckily this time they were going to a restaurant that offered good gluten-free dishes. Off I went and I met my now-husband there that day! In the meantime, I had more digestion issues in recent years so I went to get further tests. A colonoscopy and gastroscopy reveal NO COELIAC DISEASE but instead a massive cyst on my ovaries, hiatus hernia and colon adhesion to my abdominal wall. So top line: if I didn’t think I was a coeliac for 12 years, I wouldn’t have my dream job, wouldn’t have met my husband and wouldn’t have discovered many other health issues that I have now sorted. Plus, the best part is that I can now eat yum yum! Winning!

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5. The Wing Woman

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A friend conned me into being his wing-woman at a beginner’s swing dance class with him. I had no interest in dancing and really only went to hang out with him as he lived pretty far away.

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Five years later, I am a full-time Lindy hop instructor traveling all over Europe teaching and performing. It’s my whole life and this community has brought me so many incredible opportunities and adventures. All because my friend needed a wing woman.

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4. Deputies Bond

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I was in law school with a girl who had a locker two down from mine. One day we’re at our lockers and the guy whose locker is between us is talking and says in a real melodramatic way, “I’m just waiting on somebody to ask me to go for coffee.” I rolled my eyes into the back of my head over the sad bastardness of the comment. He doesn’t see it, but this girl does.

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When she clerked for our elected prosecutor and was asked if she knew anybody that wanted to clerk in the office and she gave them my name. We had never spoken, only shared a laugh this guy’s drama, and she gave them my name. Fourteen years later, she and I are now the top two deputies in the office and best of friends. If I hadn’t had made the exact joke the exact time, I wouldn’t have the career I have today.

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3. The Game Of Life

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My sister years ago introduced me to Runescape through a gaming site she frequented called Miniclips. This was September 2004. Over 14 years later (more than half my life), it has acted as an escape from my usually anxious mind and helped me endure harder years of life into the relative calm and happy times I enjoy now.

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It helped me learn that growth comes with time, patience, and hard work — in games and in life. I still play even now. Thank you sis, and thank you JaGeX; I owe you big!

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2. Uncle’s Loneliness

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My uncle was with his pregnant girlfriend in high school and he wanted to bring her to a church picnic to meet my family. My grandpa told him she wasn’t welcome there because he was angry at my uncle for the pregnancy. My uncle’s girlfriend took off upset. She was hit by a driver who was under the influence soon after while crossing the street, killing her and her unborn child.

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My uncle never had another relationship after that and is childless to this day. He’s nearly 70 now. So if my grandpa had allowed her at the picnic, she might still be alive and my uncle wouldn’t have lived a life of loneliness and solitude.

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1. Oh No!

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My coworker has a big ego and thinks she knows best. We had a patient who received home visits. He had a medical condition that, if observed by a newcomer, might cause alarm, but we were very much informed about it and familiar with it. Instructions were that the condition was “normal” for him, not a concern in itself.

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One day, the patient’s wife and my coworker seemed to have some kind of power struggle/disagreement about his condition and treatment and the coworker ended up calling an ambulance (for his long term unchanged condition that we were very familiar with.) He was taken to hospital and while there caught an infection. This infection impacted his eating and he lost a lot of weight fast. His condition deteriorated over the next few months and he passed away. Honestly, it wasn’t unexpected that he might pass but it seems the specific scenario it ended up happening in stemmed from that unnecessary hospital visit.

Marijean Grace

Marijean Grace

Spreading some good positive vibes!