Last week, my dad and I were walking around some shops by the wharf on the coast of Monterey when we stumbled upon a little hole-in-the-wall fortunetelling business.
Hey Al, wanna get your palm read? he asked with a smirk on his face, probably assuming I’d roll my eyes and walk past her shop without a second glance.
I stopped dead in my tracks and took a look at the chalkboard sign outside her shop. It read:
I’d never had my palm read before and figured ten bucks was a pretty good deal. Granted, the fortuneteller would probably tell me nothing of any value, but what the hell. I was in California for the first time in my life and, if nothing else, I knew it’d make for a good story to tell my mom when I got home from my trip.
My dad handed me the money and I walked tentatively inside, peeking around the wall to see a middle-aged woman with a purple jewel stuck on her forehead. Her skin was weathered and golden brown — like she’d spent one too many days basking in the California sun.
I wondered if she’d been there her whole life, reading strangers’ palms as voraciously as I read Kerouac books.
I like to think she had.
Come in, she said, motioning to the chair in front of her.
I sat down and felt my heart beating in my throat, suddenly very aware of my presence and our closeness in a room the size of a closet. I wondered how the future could possibly fit inside there when there was hardly enough room for the two of us to sit comfortably.
What can I do for you today? she asked.
I just, uh — I just wanted to get my palm read, I said, the 10 dollar bill now crumpled and moist in my hand.
Very good, she said, taking my hand and laying it palm up on the table next to her. But before I begin, you must know I will tell you everything I see, good or bad. No hard feelings, ok?
Ok, I said, though I wasn’t sure I meant it.
As she studied my palm, I watched her intently to see if she flinched or winced or did anything else that would lend me to believe death and destruction was just around the corner for me, but her face remained steadfast.
A moment past, but it felt like an eternity. Finally, she looked into my eyes and smiled.
First things first, she said in an assuring tone, her green and brown gypsy scarf hanging loosely around her neck. I see a long life ahead of you. Very long. You will live until your early nineties.
She then proceeded to tell me everything I already know about myself for the next ten minutes— that I’m a free spirit with a strong heart and a sometimes-muddled mind, that I will write books and own two businesses (what else besides ice cream?!?!?), that I will help people throughout my entire life because, at the end of the day, there is nothing I love more than people.
She told me to take my time and follow my heart, because my heart knows everything there is to know about life. And it knows I do not need to rush, because nothing good ever gets away.
I believed her.
After the session, I walked out of the 4x4 room and through the beaded drapes to meet up with my dad who was standing outside, probably salivating at the thought of the clam chowder he’d soon be eating for dinner.
So? he said, smiling his big ole goofy Bob smile as he waited to hear my fate. What’s it lookin’ like?
It’s lookin’ good, Dad. It’s lookin’ good, I said.
And I meant it.
Now here’s the thing: I’m well aware that the fortuneteller gypsy lady probably gets paid to tell people exactly what they want to hear. Somehow, I doubt she would have told me if I was going to be hit by a bus sometime in the next week.
Maybe she would have — I don’t know.
But, whether she really saw my future or not, I left the palm-reading session feeling excited about life. I’m always excited about life, but that night in particular, it looked magical.
My future glowed, and I wanted all of it.
But it wasn’t the books or the businesses that excited me most. Sure, I know in my heart that I want to write books and open up an ice cream shop where people can eat ice cream and just be people. I’ve known for years that’s what I want out of life, and I’ve never doubted that I’ll get it. I believe in myself and I believe in the universe, and I tend to think if you believe in those two things, not much can get in your way.
But even though her palm reading reaffirmed what I already know in my heart to be true, what stuck with me most was the first thing she said to me.
I see a long life ahead of you. Very long. You will live until your early nineties.
I did the math and thought about what that meant.
70 more years. 70 more years on this beautiful planet.
I turned 20 today, and it seems like with each birthday that comes and goes, life just keeps on moving faster and faster. Some days, I feel like I’m still an eager-eyed 16-year-old ready to take on the world. Other days, I feel like a reflective 60-year-old who wants nothing more than to just sit in a rocking chair and think about the good ole days.
Turns out time is a funny trick, and it can do a lot of things. But the one thing it’ll never do is the thing you want it to do most.
It’ll never slow down.
I used to hate birthdays for that reason. They seemed to be nothing but reminders that I was getting older and time was going by faster and sooner or later all my dreams would pass me by and I’d shrivel up and die and What if I never publish that book? What if I never open up that ice cream shop? What if…what if this is my last birthday?
Of all the what-ifs, that last what-if always scared me most. Because the truth is, I love my life. I love it so, so much. And of all the things I want in the world, there’s nothing I want more than to just be alive.
And that’s probably why, when the fortuneteller told me I have a long life ahead of me, everything felt magical. That’s probably why, today, I’m celebrating my birthday, even though I know I’m getting older and time is going by faster and yes, I am going to die one day.
Because here’s the thing: I didn’t ask to be born 20 years ago, but for whatever reason — whether it’s to write books or make ice cream or do whatever else fortuneteller gypsy lady saw me doing in the future — the universe decided to bring me here.
And for that, I am grateful.
I have loved so many people and places and moments throughout my life, and I wouldn’t ask for anything more. It’s truly a blessing to be here — today and every day.
And I hope, more than anything else, that the fortuneteller gypsy lady was right when she said I have a long life ahead of me.
Because the books and the businesses — they sound cool and all.
But 70 more birthdays — that sounds even better.