Fate: the will or principle or determining cause by which things in general are believed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do – Merriam-Webster
Destiny: a predetermined course of events often held to be an irresistible power or agency – Merriam-Webster
They sound so similar. Instinctively though, most people feel very differently about them. “Google” them and you will find that overall, people feel this about these two things:
Fate: Passive. No control over the inevitable outcome. Per one website with a discussion on the differences: the course your life will take in spite of your actions.
Destiny: Dynamic. A degree of control as to how you will reach the inevitable outcome. Per the same website: predetermined events within your life that you take an active course in shaping.
In general, “fate” seems to have negative connotations to it while “destiny” is used in a much more positive context.
“It was his fate to be the first soldier to step foot on the shores of Normandy.”
“It was her destiny to go to the bar that night and meet the love of her life.”
How differently would we feel about these two sentences if the words were inter-changed?:
“It was his destiny to be the first soldier to step foot on the shores of Normandy.”
“It was her fate to go to the bar that night and meet the love of her life.”
If we say it was his or her fate, even though the outcome is preordained, it makes us feel as if it all happened without their choices as the driving influence. If we say it was his or her destiny, for me at least, it automatically makes me feel as if they made choices or came to some sort of peace about the end results…whether or not the end results were something everyone would consider positive.
Words and how they are perceived matter. A whole lot.
As a woman nearing the age of 43, I am naturally thinking about – my life. I am looking back, reflecting on what has transpired to date… the place those events either of my choosing or thrust upon me have led me to thus far…and where the place I’m in now tells me about where I’m going. I’m not alone in this.
I suppose some might call this the beginnings of a “mid-life crisis”. As a younger person, say in my 20′s, I would have agreed with them. But “mid-life crisis” has the same type of negative connotations that “fate” has.
In your 20′s it’s very difficult to conceive of a life lived long and hard enough to reflect upon, and society has all but assigned, with impunity, the “mid-life crisis” to men in their 40′s buying Ferrari’s they cannot afford and women of 40+ hooking themselves up to a Botox-drip to regain any infinitesimally small vestige of the care-free youth they are now old enough to realize is gone forever. I assume that’s because of the word “crisis”…which instantly implies something negative to be dealt with. An emergency situation.
I’m trying very hard not to see it that way.
I believe it’s only natural and human to reach what you hope is the mid-stage point in your life and feel the need to take serious stock in what has happened to you, what you have created for yourself and how that will affect what is left of life you will lead. You no longer have your “whole before you”…you have, maybe, half – or less – of your life before you. And therein lies the problem. Once you’ve been lucky enough to live your life to a point where you know you’ve lived more already than you are likely to live in the future…a slow, boiling fear sets into your gut.
What have I done?
What have I accomplished?
Have I lived up to my potential?
Have I loved enough? Cared enough? Given enough?……….
When I die, will I feel the power of the love I made and gave given back to me? Will it envelop me and carry me forward?
It’s very difficult to imagine living the final moments of your life and not being able to answer “yes” to those questions. And if you can’t answer “yes” to those questions when you ask them of yourself, which can really only be asked when you’ve lived long enough to assess the answers realistically, there is an overwhelming desire to not let another minute of your life go by….not another single minute….. in which you don’t at least attempt to fulfill…your destiny.
I am a mother. I have three wonderful, beautiful children. The majority of my personal energy, strength and love is channeled into guiding them toward living strong, healthy, happy lives. And that’s how it should be. My parents are wonderful…they did the same for me. The appreciation I have for them with regards to what they gave to me, and gave up for me, is limitless. But at the same time I hope so much that they were able to secure some piece of what they believe their personal destiny is along the way, despite having given so much of their lives to their children.
We all have dreams and ambitions and goals for ourselves that seem achievable. Before you hit, oh…about my age, it seems that you can say to yourself so easily….”There’s still time.” Staring down the barrel of 43 I can realistically say to myself, “Self, there might not be that much more time.”
And then I hear Morgan Freeman whisper to me, “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.”
I’ve achieved some of the goals in my life and am so eternally grateful for them. But ohhhhh…..I have thus far fallen woefully short of the smile I hope graces my face at the end of my life when I ask myself “the questions”.
I wonder what am I waiting for. (Something to make it all easier?)
I ask myself what’s holding me back. (Fear?)
I worry about whether my happiness and personal fulfillment can exist in tandem with what I owe to my children and the other people in my life whom I love. (I don’t know the answer to this. I’m not sure I ever will. All I can do is my very best to make sure… it can.)
I don’t want a Ferrari or Botox. Well, I don’t know. Maybe. Wait…no. I’m getting sidetracked here.
I don’t want a Ferrari or Botox.
I want – need - to start actively taking the steps which will move me closer to my destiny.
We all end the same way. But how do we get there?
Whether on the beach or at the bar, and despite the “crisis” apparently inherent in reaching this point, I don’t want to be fated…to anything.
I just don’t.