Synchronicity of a lifetime, in Paris

This is a story about synchronicity, humility and love.

In college I felt invincible. I had the stamina of my Granny Nancy, who late in life confided in me that she always assumed one day she would stop and rest, but never did. I had great opportunities, studying physics at Cal, but I wanted adventure. I wanted to break my local confines and explore the world. 

I had a close friend, Dana, whom I had known since the first week of high school. There, too, I had been given the opportunity for intimacy, but had not wanted to commit as a lover. We were best friends through high school, but I wanted adventure. I wasn’t ready.

I wanted to conquer the world, and I knew I could do it. I could sleep anywhere, eat anything, and hitchhike to any destination. During the summer before my junior year of college, I got a room in cooperative housing, living among my college friends, staying up late, eating cereal for dinner, and sleeping on couches. I had no limitations. I made a plan to travel to Europe for the Fall semester. I spent an inheritance check on plane tickets and a Eurorail pass. That was it. Everything else would surely fall into place.

As it turns out, Dana was spending the semester studying in Israel. We were delighted at the synchronicity. “Let’s meet in Greece!”, we said. We had no cell phones and no more of a plan. We were untouchable.

The first hint of trouble came early in my trip. Staying in Stockholm with my cousin’s family, I developed a rash. Still, I was sure I knew what it was. While visiting doctors I got good at saying “gifta ek,” or “poison oak,” in Swedish. I got some medication and continued on my journey. 

My rash got worse on the road in Germany, France and Spain. I was staying in hostels, trying to manage my symptoms, and having no real access to a doctor. I was still sure I knew what the problem was, even though my efforts to heal weren’t working.

In Rome I finally realized I needed to go home. I admitted to myself that my situation was out of control. I learned that I had a very unpleasant and contagious skin disease, scabies. Even today I have trouble saying it, realizing how many others suffered as a result of my ignorance.

I abandoned the plan to meet Dana in Greece. I booked a plane ticket home through Paris, and hopped on a train to get there. Meanwhile, Dana was in Israel and had gotten tired of waiting for me to call. Her friends invited her to fly to Paris for the weekend to visit Fashion Week. She almost said no, because if she missed a call from me, she knew we would never meet in Greece. 

She chose Paris.

I arrived in Paris a day before my flight, and went to explore the Louvre Museum. On my way to find the Mona Lisa, I stopped dead in my tracks: there was a woman there who looked just like Dana. I stared brazenly, thoroughly confused by the situation. The woman she was with whispered to her, “Don’t look now, there’s a weird guy staring at you.” She did look, and her eyes lit up as she said “That’s Sky!”

We were overjoyed at our good luck. We spent the next 18 hours together in the airport, catching up and waiting for my flight. She had brought letters she had written but which had no destination address for me. Why she brought them to Paris? Neither of us remember. But I read them on the plane flight home. It was a magical moment of connection.

I had brought my disease with me to Europe. The world outside was not a scary place. It was my carelessness that had made it scary. And yet completely out of my control I had been given the greatest gift of my life, an accidental meeting with Dana. 

No, I was still not ready to see the gift. I kept looking for the right match. Yet, three years later, at another low point as another relationship ended, I realized that we needed to be together. Twenty-five years later, we are married and the parents of an incredible ten year old young lady.

What threatens me is not the world outside, but the things I bring with me on my adventures. My sense of certainty. My sense of invulnerability. My sense of dissatisfaction. And yet, even amidst those difficult learnings and self-inflicted wounds, I was given the gift of synchronicity, of connection to somebody whom I really needed. I discovered that I am on an adventure of learning, that life has all the bases covered, and that I am not alone on that journey, even when I try to be.

This experience was so mind-bogglingly synchronistic that I ended up on a professional journey to uncover the scientific roots of synchronicity. My book, Living in Flow: The Science of Synchronicity and How Your Choices Shape Your World, connects us to that vulnerable yet empowering state we call flow, and attempts to turn synchronicity into a discipline of physics.

We are on adventures of healing and growth, and synchronicity can be our guide. Flow is our roadmap, humility is our compass, and love is what makes the destinations worthwhile.

Sky Nelson-Isaacs