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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: March 2023 | Transition

Simple Twists of Fate

Stanley Peter Jaskiewicz


  • As lawyers, we plan ahead for all contingencies, however, often coincidences and simple twists of fate can lead to the most significant transitions in our lives and career.
Simple Twists of Fate Chen

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As a corporate lawyer, I have spent almost 40 years trying to anticipate every possible deal contingency.

Yet reflecting back on my life, the most important choices and twists occurred almost totally by chance – and led to my own transition to a healthier lifestyle.

I had this epiphany after reading Norm Tabler’s excellent article on how chance shaped his professional life in the April/May 2022 issue of Experience Magazine, “The Role of Dumb Luck in Shaping a Career.”

That recognition about how transitions defy our planning instincts was also reinforced by a recent Wall Street Journal article about “the hidden power of coincidences.”

In my case, pure happenstance led to a series of seemingly random events, which turned out for my own good.

For example, you are reading this solely because I happened to see (and respond) to an ABA editor’s request for comments in Help a Reporter Out, shortly after returning to the office in mid-2021, in the midst of the Pandemic.

That reply led not only to inclusion of my comments in an article in Voice of Experience’s sister publication, Experience Magazine, it also resulted in an invitation to become involved in VOE, and resumption of writing regular columns for publication, as I had done for years preceding the start of the dot-com boom.

(I hope you have enjoyed my several contributions to both Senior Lawyers Division publications as much as I have enjoyed writing them, especially those about my family.)

But chance has dictated a much more meaningful transition than my scribbling – it literally saved my life.

A passing question at the end of a long list of items to discuss with my doctor led to an unexpected diagnosis of massive heart blockages.

My description of what I thought was chest cramping while rushing to catch my commuter train (for which I was habitually late) convinced my doctor to repeat a stress test, even though I had recently passed one. 

This time, however, the hospital would not let me go home.  I had open-heart bypass surgery a few days later, that probably saved my life.

More importantly, after the procedure I learned how what I thought was a healthy lifestyle was not – as well as what I had to change.

I wrote about that experience both before the surgery, and afterward.

Although I am still here three years later, I understand that I have to maintain those changes indefinitely – and learned how to sustain the transition.  

Similarly, the seat I happened to choose on a crowded train, on a church young adult group trip to New York City in 1992, led directly to my 1995 marriage – because I asked the woman sitting next to me out on a date the following week.

How could I know that she had been a French major in college, and would enjoy seeing the French language bookstore in Rockefeller Center that I had previously visited?

We recently celebrated our 27th anniversary.  (What an understatement - marriage was certainly a transition, but is so much more.)

Even before that fateful train trip, I had become involved with a local disabilities nonprofit, another transition, but which led to what has become a lifetime of disabilities advocacy – but not because of my son’s autism diagnosis. 

Instead, I walked in its annual Stroll and Roll to honor my late father, whose leg had been amputated, years before my son with a disability was even a gleam in my eye. 

As a young lawyer, I wanted to get involved in the community, and loved a physical event I could handle.

Although I participated regularly after my initial walk, I upped my fundraising game after our son’s autism diagnosis – to the point that I have been recognized for that advocacy by several organizations.

Similarly, my son’s elementary school special ed teacher, a Scout leader, suggested that he and his special ed classmates consider becoming Cub Scouts.

Scouting quickly became one of the best influences on his life.

Today, he is an Eagle Scout, whose project supported the agency that had provided therapists to us when he was young.

To spend time with him, I had become an adult leader, a role I still hold today, long after my son’s last meeting in 2016.

Scouting also gave me a platform to write about disabilities advocacy, to help (I hope) many others. 

And my advocacy did not stop with Scouting. 

At the “suggestion” of one of my son’s therapists, I agreed to coach, and, soon thereafter, run a Challenger baseball program for players with disabilities of all ages – which I did for 12 years.

I combined scheduling dates with information I learned while coaching and advocating for my son, whether recreational opportunities, educational advocacy, or even disabilities focused guidance on religious education.

A few years later, I leveraged what I had learned advocating for my son to help my mother-in-law obtain benefits to cover her care after a fall had confined her to a hospital bed.

A lot of life has been packed into that simple suggestion to attend a Scout recruiting meeting!

Random events have also directed my personal life.

For example, while waiting in line for an Apple t-shirt when it opened its first Philadelphia store, I overheard a man ahead of me discussing my high school alma mater – where he happened to teach, and, more importantly, had become an active social media promoter. From that connection, I became reacquainted not only with the school, but also with Jesuit spirituality.

Many years before these events, I met a fellow trumpet player at a reception for my college’s newly admitted students.  He and his roommate became my friends for over forty years, and we attended each other’s weddings.

Another transition began when my parish started a capital campaign to build a new church.  I decided to attend the planning meeting, and quickly became involved in the fundraising.

That role led to invitations to over 20 years of service on our Finance and Pastoral Councils, and significant involvement in the business side of loans to expand our facilities.

So, looking back, I reflect on how lucky I have been that my life has been built on one coincidental transition after another. 

Perhaps they were “simple twists of fate.”

Perhaps just the results of chances that were “awfully good.”

Either way, I don’t think I could have planned a better life than “what the fates allow(ed)."