Once upon a time, living in my sleepy North Carolina college town, a devastating emotional tornado swept the land, and left me in ruins in a place that was far from The Land of Oz.
It was more of a destination of isolation – where I could see the life I dreamed of, the streets I was meant to walk, and yet, I just couldn’t capture it. I just couldn’t get there. I didn’t have a miniature dog or miniature people to guide my way, nor a scarecrow, a tinman, or a lion. And though I hoped for the Good Witch of North to guide me to the direction of her name, I was stuck on Southern ground, worrying endlessly about my unwell father, mending the end of a love, and preparing for a summer in the city I had yet to determine if I could afford.
And yet, I found the courage, the heart, and the smarts to find the Wonderful Wizard that lives in a building with many windows on 57th and 8th. But not by following a yellow brick road, but rather by following the penny lane.
As if sent from a power beyond myself, during my sophomore year in college, right before my first internships in New York, I started finding pennies. Now, of course, I had stumbled across a penny before, and though it goes against tradition, my mother always made me retrieve them- heads or tails up. She claimed it was wasteful to discriminate against money because of the way Lincoln was laying. But unlike those times in grocery store parking lots where discovering a penny was a rare occurence, I started seeing them exactly when I needed them. No three clicks of my heel needed.
When I would start to stress over my lack of sleep and dedication to classes while working nearly 60 hours (or more) at the camps paper, I’d kick a penny across the tiled floor while grabbing lunch. When I went to the interview for the internship I’d be offered, I moved my stiletto to find a penny resting below it in the seat of the cab. As I pushed open the door to the building I would live in for the summer, I noticed a penny in the doorway. And when I returned to finish out my college tenure as quickly as possible so I could return to the Apple of Opportunities, the pennies didn’t stop falling in all the right places, at all the right times.
If I was upset over a someone who didn’t turn into a something, when I felt like I was never measuring up to what I convinced myself I needed to be, or when my insecurities outweighed my sense of intimate beauty – a penny would find its way to me. Most literally, at one point, when I threw up the sheets to make my bed after a romp I instantly regretted, a pesky coin flew its way to the center of my forehead, as if to say: It’s okay! You’re human, Linds.
And though it has been many moons since that Spring when I noticed the Penny Lane I unintentionally follow, these copper culprits still find a way to reassure me.
When I arrived at the doorway of my current job, a tiny triangle of three pennies pointed me inside the office. An hour after I signed my lease on April 2 the year I moved, I opened the giant bay window (the only perk of a completely sad studio) and knocked over a pile of pennies that were resting in the corner. The day I started this blog in a little cafe a few blows from my apartment on the Upper West, I went to unplug my laptop and someone walked by me and dropped a penny at my feet. They turned back to see what they misplaced, laughed, and said: “Well, I guess it is your lucky night, huh?”
And these one-cent wonders don’t stop at my career or my residence – they follow me in dating, too. When Mr. Idea and I decided to go bungee jumping together – at the point where we were diving right into love as well – on the platform, before I stepped 60 feet off into air, I reached into my short pockets and found a forgotten penny. When I met Mr. Unavailable for coffee in Bryant Park, the table we sat on had a few pennies laying casually in the middle. And when I met Mr. Possibility on that bus and we walked to Grand Central Station to catch the same uptown train, I picked up a penny crossing the avenue.
I had been putting off writing about pennies because my belief in their power that’s personal to me may sound a tad crazy to the outside world. People find pennies all day and we’ve all been taught they bring you luck – but that’s not what they give me. Well, perhaps luck is part of it, but mostly, pennies remind me that I’m always where I’m meant to be. That even if the road is jagged and it forks in places I’d rather it spoon, I know I’ll find my way to the top. And if not, I’m reminded I’m strong enough to pave a path where there is no road and create my own happiness. A penny may be just a penny to many, but to me, it’s a symbol that gives me strength. So yesterday when I found myself strangely plagued by pennies, I knew it was a sign to finally give them space on something they encouraged 193-posts ago.
Not feeling like my usual bubbly and energetic self, I spent the majority of work exhausted and pushing myself to prioritize and finish simple tasks. For weeks, I’ve felt a change-a-comin’ and unable to determine which wind will blow in a different direction, I haven’t just had a queasy stomach, but my mind has been sweating in anticipation, too. Knowing fresh air was the best cure for my daze, I took a break to soak up the energy I’m lucky enough to call my home. As I walked street-to-street, I looked down and saw a trail of three pennies pointing downtown, and so, excited by my copper angel’s appearance, I continued. Before my hour excursion was over, I found a total of five little friends. Reassured and humbled by the signs I felt were sent from fate, I returned to the magazine refreshed and ready to work.
And then, well-aware of my penny-obsession, Mr. Possibility who is currently overseas, sent me a picture with a caption that read: “Guess it is a day for finding pennies.”
Because I find them so frequently, which may be a testament to how much I waste time worrying, I’ve stopped picking them up. I figure, maybe someone else will find happiness in something so simple. Even if most of what we deem special in our lives is based on when it crossed our path. For me, pennies have become what clicking heels was to Dorothy – a way to feel comforted. To be transported into a place of peace.
I mean, when you’re not looking into Lincoln’s eye and turn the copper coin around, it says to trust in something higher than yourself. So when I come across them, as I do when I least expect it and never when I try to find them, I remember that while I may not know the rhyme or the riddle, or how long a season will last – I know there must be a reason. And if I doubt – I’m sure a penny will put me in my place and back on its lane that’s led me to right here, right now, right where I’m supposed to be.