Next Stop, My Calling – Meeting My Destiny on the Bus

January 17th, 2007 by admin

A fortune teller said a bus would play an important part in my future. It did, but not in the way I’d imagined.

Next Stop, My Calling – Meeting My Destiny on the Bus

Newsweek
September 21, 2006
Author: Sarah Paige

During my last week of high school I was thinking less about my future than I was about spending time with my friends. Our mothers had a graduation party for us, an afternoon tea with sandwiches and a lot of questions like, “What will you major in?” and “What do you want to do after college?” My answer to both: “I don’t know.” Then our mothers revealed they had invited a psychic to tell our fortunes at this turning point in our lives.
Isabel, the psychic, had arms full of bangle bracelets that clacked together as she took a turn with each of us, holding our hands to tell our future. My friend Lisa was told that a tall man was in her future, which wound up being true of her 6-foot-2 husband. Angela, it was predicted, would spend time in the South, which came true when she attended law school at the University of Virginia. When my turn finally came, Isabel took my hand, paused for a moment and reported flatly, “I see you … on a bus.”

As my new fate got a few giggles from the other girls, I was picturing the disgusting bus stations I had only seen in the movies, full of sad and lonely souls who would rather be anywhere else. A bus is supposed to be the conduit to bigger and better things, the unfortunate but necessary inconvenience you endure to get to your destination. But Isabel had made it sound like the bus was the destination. Is that all? My friends get to be Southern belles and marry tall Prince Charmings and all I get is a lousy bus?

My mind raced. What kind of bus would it be? Local? Cross-country? A public bus? A school bus? A tour bus? Where would I be going? Could it be some sort of figurative or metaphorical bus? Would it please just hurry up and come get me so that I could stop dreading spending time in a smelly, uncomfortable bus? Isabel couldn’t answer any questions about my bus, but told me to be aware of opportunities in my future, and for years I was constantly on the lookout for an attachment to anything that remotely resembled a bus. Eventually, I got caught up with more constructive activities. I finished school, got married and started a teaching career, none of which were apparently significant enough to warrant a mention in Isabel’s psychic reading.

Years later, I found myself thinking of Isabel and her prediction. It happened late one night toward the end of a two-year stint working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon. I was heading home to my host village, riding over a treacherous road, on a bus of course. The road was typical of West Africa—unpaved, unlit, narrow and full of holes from six months of torrential rains. The bus was also typical—a 1980s Toyota van with added benches to squeeze in 15 adult passengers, not counting chickens, goats and several children under the age of 2. This particular bus had GOD LOVE painted in large red letters on the side of it, and I was hoping that might provide some protection as we reeled blindly in the dark around a downhill curve with no guardrails. Since Isabel’s vision had just re-entered my mind, I was sure that meant my life was flashing before my eyes. Had Isabel been predicting my untimely death? Was the opportunity she told me to be aware of the opportunity to die in a fiery bus crash in a foreign country?

I survived, of course, but I began to think again about the significance of that bus, and how many loose ends I would have left if that bus ride had been my last. Most troubling to me was that I was still unsure of what to do with the rest of my life. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be an actor. I grew up taking acting classes and performing and dancing in front of any audience that happened to be sitting still. When I got to high school however, I went through a phase of thinking that acting was frivolous and I was embarrassed to do it.

On the bus that night, I thought about all the people I had met in Cameroon. For most of them, their lives had been decided for them by a class system and arranged marriages. Women only recently started working away from their homes and family farms. I am extremely lucky to have choices in my life, and I should not waste my opportunities. I noticed that in Cameroon people took much-needed relaxing breaks by forming groups where they gathered, drank fermented corn beer and acted out ancient stories. Even on terrifying bus rides, most of the passengers were telling jokes and entertaining each other. Whether it is for escape or introspection, entertainment and those who provide it are valuable.

After that bus ride, I finally understood that pursuing my dreams was not frivolous but rather a privilege. It cannot have been a coincidence that this thought came to me during a bus trip. I knew then I would become an actor. Since returning from Cameroon four years ago, I have spent the time studying acting, and I moved to New York City in order to make it a career. I have performed in theater, films and television. I have gotten a late start compared to my counterparts, and as the odds have it, I will probably never be a famous movie star. But that is OK because I love every minute of what I am doing. To me, that is the definition of success.

As far as my destiny with buses, my experience so far has been occasionally dangerous and, yes, sometimes sticky and smelly. But without it, I might never have had the courage to take such a big chance in changing my career. Now in Manhattan, I use public transportation daily, and I am always open to what I might see on a bus.

Paige lives in New York City.