When I was in high school, I was a candy striper at the hospital I was born in (St. Joseph's in Orange for the Cali peeps). It was something I did regularly, every Friday, for several years, even after I graduated. I enjoyed it, especially since I was hoping to go pre-med in college (that didn't quite turn out as well as I had hoped then, but I'm happy that I didn't end up in med school).
One of my favorite things about volunteering on Fridays was that the theme dinner at the hospital cafeteria that day was always Chinese (not sure if they still do that now). Me and my fellow candy stripers would unwind at the cafeteria and I would occasionally indulge my craving for Chinese food. The best part of the meal was the fortune cookie at the end.
I had a particularly significant encounter with a fortune cookie my senior year. I had just applied to a number of colleges and had interviewed for numerous scholarships. One of them was the Trustee Scholarship at USC, an academic scholarship that paid for all 4 years of college. Seeing as that I really wanted to go to USC and my mom told me she wasn't going to help me pay for college (12 years of private schooling was plenty for her to pay already) and USC is pricey, I was really, really hoping I would get this scholarship. I was incredibly stressed out around the time that I expected to hear from them about the scholarship. I so really, really wanted to go to USC.
One Friday, I went to volunteer at the hospital and decided to treat myself to Chinese food since I had had a rough week. At the end of my meal, I broke open my fortune cookie and the fortune said, "Hope for the best." Being quite the pessimist back then (now, I call it being a realist), I was really thinking that I wasn't going to get that USC scholarship and was dreading having to go with UCLA, since they had already offered me a generous scholarship. Ugh. You all know how much I hate those Bruins.
I decided to keep that fortune cookie fortune. I'm not sure why, but it spoke to me. It reminded me to remain positive and it was a message I really needed to hear.
That following Monday, I got a skinny envelope from USC. My mom handed it to me and my heart sank. Clearly, a small envelope must mean bad news. I took a deep breath and walked outside with it, where my dog Heidi was. I knew that she would let me cry into her fur if necessary. My mom stayed inside, looking at me curiously. She wanted to know what was in that envelope. I was too scared to open it. Somehow, out of nowhere, a voice inside me said that it was all going to be ok. I opened the envelope and read the letter inside.
"We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected to receive the prestigious Trustee Scholarship...blah, blah, blah."
I started to cry. My mom cried out, "We're going to USC!" I had never been so happy.
Not too long ago, Jesse had his own fortune cookie moment. He'd been debating the marriage thing for a while and I was growing increasingly impatient. I'm not sure what he needed in order to make that decision, but I had done all that I could.
So one night, we ordered Chinese. We've got a really good Chinese place near us so we do this often when neither of us feel like cooking. As always, I look forward to the fortune cookie at the end. Jesse joins me in anticipation. He doesn't really look forward to the cookie like I do, but I think he likes to watch me get all giddy about the fortune.
The food always comes with two fortune cookies and, that night, I let Jesse pick which one he wanted. He made his decision and then I ripped mine open to read the fortune. Mine said, "The best times of your life are still ahead." Hmmm. I sure hope so.
I looked to Jesse and he looked perplexed by his fortune. I asked him, "What does your say?" I completely expected his fortune to be entirely nonsensical as the fortunes sometimes are. Instead, he surprised me and said, "You and your wife will live a long happy life together."
I was shocked. So was Jesse. He said, "We were just talking about marriage. And then I picked this cookie. And if you had opened it, it wouldn't have made sense. But I opened it. It's like it was meant to be." With a smile, I said, "It's a sign."
Like I had done with that fortune from that fortune cookie my senior year of high school, Jesse saved his fortune.
And what did I do with my new fortune? I stuck it on the fridge. It's a gentle reminder that things are only going to get better from here on out.
And they totally have.
Happy Valentine's Day