by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, authors of JUST LIKE FATE
We are all just
Magnets for fate
Stumbling, skipping, running at our pace
Making choices, losing voices
Making wishes for forgiveness
But morning’s coming soon
—“Magnets for Fate” from Just Like Fate
Think about how many choices you’ve made today. You chose what time to get up. What to wear. Whether or not to brush your teeth. (Let’s hope you chose to!) And that was just this morning. Think of the mountainous number of choices you’ll make in your lifetime. Do these small choices, good or bad, alter who we ultimately become? Or is it all up to fate?
Fate’s a weird thing, especially when you consider how to change it, affect it. Maybe we can’t. Maybe we can. Maybe it’s not the end result we should worry about, but the journey itself.
We may be drawn to our fates like magnets, but whatever we pick up along the way means something. Mistakes mean something.
Our book, Just Like Fate (SimonPulse), is about a girl named Caroline Cabot and the decision she makes one night. Her grandmother is dying and Caroline has spent every minute by her side. But one Friday, she considers leaving the hospice for a few hours to take a break and hang out with her friends. It’s then, in that small decision, that her life splits in two and she lives the consequences in alternating chapters titled STAY and GO. The reader gets to see how Caroline’s life plays out in both scenarios.
Thinking about what life might look like if, for example, you’d made the school bus that morning you overslept and missed it is a fun exercise that probably every one of us has done at one point in our lives. Ultimately, Just Like Fate does just that. It focuses on choice—how choices large and small stack on top of one another and determine our paths.
As authors, we get asked a lot about our choices. For example, we’ve been asked often why we choose to write for teens. Part of the reason is that there is so much possibility ahead—so many choices to make. But the thing is that we both believe that the bad choices are just as important as the good ones.
Good choices make us feel good overall. They make us emotionally pat ourselves on the head, or literally buy ourselves an ice cream. Good choices are excellent for building our self-confidence. When our book came out, we celebrated over the world’s largest basket of sweet potato French fries. Maybe eating fries every day is a bad idea, but in that moment, it was a good choice. That choice was a winner. The choice to set aside what else we were working on and focus on writing this book together was another winner. Head pats all around!
Bad choices are harder, and they are important. If we all coasted through life and never did anything wrong, what a boring world it would be. We all make mistakes. Mistakes are easy to remember, and even easier to dwell on. But what we believe, and what our book tries to convey, is that while they mean something, they don’t mean everything. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn about ourselves, and to grow as people. If we make a bad choice not to study for a test, we can feel terrible about our bad grade, but hit the books the next time. If we make a bad choice not to be nice to a friend, we can strengthen our empathy and understanding by apologizing, strive to remember how we felt and be kinder next time. When we make the choice not to be good to ourselves, we can try to treat the person in the mirror as we would a child. Our best friend. Our grandmother. Because that person in the mirror is only human. That person in the mirror needs our kindness just as much as our friends do.
I’m saying that our mistakes—one mistake or many of them—don’t define us. They don’t derail us. We end up where we need to be in the end. But hopefully having learned something from our stumbles, having grown into better people because of them.
In Just Like Fate, Caroline regrets some of her decisions, and at times, they threaten to overwhelm her. But she learns to live the life she needs with the help of support from her friends and family. She learns that people can love her and still be angry with her: One emotion doesn’t necessarily negate the possibility of the other. In our real lives, we need to find that support—that person who can always remind us of who we want to be.
But then there was you. Your terrible jokes and your quiet singing. Your beautiful eyes and the way you try to fix things. I was wrong—you don’t disappoint me. You amaze me.
There will always be more choices. And then more. Remember that part about brushing your teeth? Tomorrow you’ll have to make that decision again. You’ll have to decide what to do with your time, when to study, who to love. There will always be another choice to make—and sometimes, you’ll get it wrong.
But you know what? That’s okay. In fact, it’s a good thing. Because it’s not just about where you end up, but how you get there. And most importantly, what you learned from the experience.
All quotes in the article are from Just Like Fate.