Mining the Universe for Signs:

How I made Life-Changing Decisions

When I have had to make life-changing decisions, ones in which I wasn’t limited by the effect on my child (I’m a single mom so never had to consider a spouse), or a job, or a career, I went looking for answers in nature (or the universe) — mining my surroundings for “signs.”

In order to do this, you have to have a certain worldview — one in which you believe that life is more than just empirical experience. You have to believe that there is a mysterious, mystical dimension, a spiritual reality. Religious people accept this; if you believe in a God of some kind, you naturally accept a beyond-the-earthly-world dimension. Where we may differ is in what we call this, and how we seek answers from it. I will call it the Universe, and I will describe how I sought an answer from this.

A few years ago, I was drawn to live in the place where I grew up and had moved away from for over two decades, the beautiful island of Guam. I had a good life in the place where I was living (Hawaii), but I was open to making a change. There were many signs pointing to my decision to move. I assessed my level of happiness there, a sense of peace, the beauty of the place. There were a few items in my “con” side, that it would be more expensive than my current living situation, and also that my mother was aging though still independent at the time. The pros definitely outweighed the cons. However, my decision-making process isn’t whether or not the pros outweigh the cons. There had to be something else — a real sign from the universe.

In Guam, I have different places where I walk, different coastal paths. I went to one of my favorites, where there are usually butterflies. I know I am not unique in my love for butterflies, but I do call myself a “butterfly whisperer” in that I can get good photos of them, many of which are not often seen by others. There is a kind of energy that I get from seeing them, being among them. I saw a rare one, and started clicking on my iPhone. This was before the “live” feature on current iPhones, so when I checked, I was amazed that I had caught such a perfect photo (seen in this post). That was my sign — I was in the right place, at the right time.

Three years later, I had to make a similar decision, this time in the opposite direction. My mom was now three years older, and she is still is quite capable, though she has a bit of memory loss (she doesn’t like the D word, and neither do I). I was happy in Guam. I had many friends and my life was full. But now, my mom was becoming less independent; my daughter was living in the same town as my mom; projects that I had excitement about in Guam were no longer compelling; a favorite bar had closed. I was still happy in Guam, so I needed other-worldly signs, and it was the reverse of the sign three years before. When I went searching for answers from the universe, over the several months that I was making this decision, there were fewer butterflies when I went walking. It was not the same. And that was the sign I needed to make the decision to return to Hawaii.

My decision-making process for life-changing events can be summarized like this:

There is something that happens when you do this. You may ask, “How do I know that this is the right thing?” Somehow you know. It feels like the Universe is talking to you. There is a lack of fear, and a feeling of hope and optimism. Looking back, I do not have that sense of regret, of having made the wrong choice. It helps me as I navigate this choice, as I get used to the change and the adaptations needed to make up for what I had in Guam. My friend in Guam asked me if I was happy. I think that’s beside the point. I am at peace.

Playwright, essayist, teacher, artist, songwriter, poet. Creativity Activist. Learn more: https://www.dianeaoki.com

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