Did My Cat Really Change My Life?

Long distance relationships can be difficult. Especially now — as I approach the semester’s finish line — my fatigue is noticeable, I’m short tempered, and I miss my girlfriend (and my cat) more than ever.

Saturday, after a long day of studying, her and I started reminiscing about a decision I made last September. We were then staying in an Airbnb in Wisconsin for a weekend, in an attempt to stay away from Chicago for a little bit. My departure for London was soon approaching and she’d just started a new job, both of being substantial weights on our shoulders.

That weekend in Wisconsin coincided with her birthday, which fell on a Sunday. When it came the time for gifts, one of them was “missing”. I’d been in fact preparing the surprise for weeks. I told her that I wanted to give her a cat — a companion that would make her life easier in Chicago and would follow her wherever she’d go thereafter. This was a bold move for a guy who was about to board a plane for a lengthy academic journey in London. I told myself that it’d be worth the risk. (I won’t bore you with details, but I think I made a great decision. Both are now inseparable.)

Yesterday, as I was about to go to bed, we talked about that morning, and something interesting came up. We were talking about the weird paths that got us back together in Chicago, which then led her to going Baltimore and me to Philadelphia. And then she said: “Maybe it’s all because of Kitty.” (Her real name is Nakata — just like one of the main character’s in Kafka on the Shore — but we call her Kitty most of the time.)

I started laughing. Yet, the more I thought about it, the more that idea became intriguing. After all, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that our relationship was solidified — or, at least — stabilized by the presence of this cat. Every time I’d come back from UCL, late at night, I’d have thirty minute Skype session with my girlfriend and — you guessed it — Kitty. Furthermore, it’d be naïve to think that my girlfriend wasn’t in the back of my mind, as I was feeling unsure about my decision to study in London. I’ll never know the truth behind this, but there’s always the possibility that — if it hadn’t been for her — I’d be halfway done with my LL.B., soon to become a solicitor in a London law firm.

The truth is — maybe it’s truly because of Kitty that I’m now at Penn Law. After all, going to law school was always a party of my plans, but where was the question I’d yet to answer. If it weren’t for this cat, maybe I’d be back in Montreal, closer to my friends and family. Maybe it’d be somewhere far and weird, like Australia. All of these options are not far-fetched. With Kitty in mind, though, my options are far more restrained. My assumption was always that I’d chosen Penn because of my brother’s presence in Philadelphia, the proximity to home, the career opportunities available via the school, and the list goes on. Perhaps this is all biases that keep me from what’s really at play — Kitty may have chosen my law school. How absurd is that?

I find comfort in entertaining this possibility. Not because I like to think that I have no agency over my life. If anything, that’d be a pretty sad conclusion. But really because decisions have minds of their own. It is a given that life is a completely non-linear, unpredictable thing over which we have some but not total control. So giving some weight to chance in situations like these points to the idea that a bold gesture today might lead to some unforeseen, crazy and empowering thing in twelve months. Following from this, maybe being bold has nothing to do with conventional wisdom, such as changing career paths or cutting caffein. Maybe it has to do with doing something completely absurd, which, under the magnifying glass of a rational and sensible person, would make no sense.

Gifting Kitty to my girlfriend was most definitely an odd thing to do. But under her furry disguise, she may have led me to where I wanted to be in the first place.

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