“With a library, it is easier to hope for serendipity than to look for a precise answer.” – Lemony Snicket, When Did You See Her Last?
The librarian, Dashiell Qwerty, goes on to explain his statement. Sometimes, the search for answers is difficult if we get too specific. In a library filled with books and so much possibility, maybe we’ll find an answer we didn’t even know we needed. Our imperative is to keep an open mind.
I mentioned in my last post that sometimes I just can’t find an answer to a clinical question, journals or no journals. Is the Timed Up and Go Test validated for transtibial amputees AND transfemoral amputees? (Gosh, I KNOW I read this somewhere.) The search becomes long, frustrating, and narrow. Occasionally, when I encounter such a roadblock, I can walk away from the problem, come back, and the answer is staring right at me. That’s a nice feeling. Sometimes, though, I stumble on a new article or a piece of information I didn’t even know I wanted; something that completes the picture. That relatively minor occurrence can uncover an entirely new line of thought. It can produce a new perspective. That is when reading and learning becomes its own reward. And that’s an even nicer feeling.
Of course, serendipity goes beyond journal articles. I do have a life, you know. Serendipity is defined as, “the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” I’m not sure if I believe things happen in life through chance alone. But I do know that some of the most important things in my life happened to me when I was trying to accomplish something else. It’s how I made the decision to go to graduate school. It’s the way I found some of the best connections in my career. In one instance, I was sitting on a bench waiting for a ride. I met a nice woman who ran a non-profit. She was also sitting on the bench. We chatted politely for a bit of time, and then we parted ways. A year later I received a call about working for this non-profit. It’s been a wonderful opportunity.
That’s the thing about serendipity. You can’t search for it or seek it out. It can’t be forced. It requires mindfulness and patience in order to happen. How often do we practice mindfulness and patience today? We live in a distracted society, and we are constantly looking down every time a mobile device beckons. Can we all unplug? No, but we can take a minute to connect with the person next to us on the bench.
By the way, the answer to the TUG question is yes.