Initially, the number 23 used to frequently appear on digital clocks, not just at home, but also abroad or at other people’s houses. Sometimes when I happened to glance at the time, it would read 5:23. The number urged me to pay attention. To what, I was never sure. The purpose wasn’t readily clear. It’s not like a bag of money would fall from the sky or a genie would appear asking for my three wishes. There was just an overwhelming sense that I should be mindful.
So, when I moved from Middle Georgia back to Florida, with little confidence in that decision, I looked for a sign. One day, while driving on the major street adjacent to our townhome, I noticed the bus was number 23. And that did it for me. The same way people find solace in praying to an all-knowing presence that they believe exists, is the way I learned to find comfort when seeing the number 23. Recognizing the number 23 bus right outside of my home helped me to feel as if I had made the proper decision. I was in the “right” place.
Similarly, when I began my job at a community college, I was unsure the institution was right for me, that this was the “right” place for my skillset. Once again on my way to work, I noticed the bus that dropped students off right in front of the college was bus 23. When I noticed the number this time, it wasn’t comforting. It was confirming. At that moment, I had to trust, have faith, and believe I was where I was supposed to be. The reason would be revealed later.
And so, I came to rely on these two numbers as guidance.
On January 20th, I had surgery on my rotator cuff and bicep tendon. The weeks before were filled with nausea and heart palpitations; otherwise known as panic attacks. I’d never had surgery before. The days before were filled with rumination of the unknown; otherwise known as anxiety. I’d never had surgery before. Was I making the right decision? How would I know? The night before, I asked for a sign that everything would be okay, that this was the right decision. I’ve learned to trust that if I ask for a sign, then I will be given a sign, and that my job is to believe that it really is a sign.
The morning of my surgery, Dwight and I sat side-by-side on a hard hospital loveseat. We waited for my eight-digit patient number to appear on the monitor, signaling it was my turn. One-by-one, we watched as nurses called each patient to their fate. Name, the nurse would say, confirming that what the person said matched what was listed on the wristband. What are you here for? the nurse asked, validating that the patient could adequately describe their procedure. Then, the two would walk away toward an unknown place, beyond two double doors, making my stomach twist into knots. I’d never had surgery before. I sat in the crook of Dwight’s arm, trying to hide the tears that crept down my cheek, betraying any sense of internal strength.
Then, it was my turn.
I told her my name and described why I was there. I followed her toward the double doors.
“Do you need to use the bathroom?” she asked.
I hadn’t eaten anything since nine o’clock the night before, so there was no need.
“We’re going right over there to that room,” she said. “Number 23.”
I wanted to wrap my arms around her taut, stocky body. But I knew I couldn’t. I knew this nurse who had just met me two minutes prior wouldn’t understand how much seeing those two digits meant to me. But still I tried.
“That’s my birth day,” I said, with as much nonchalance as I could muster.
The nurse looked at my file, as if to verify, that my birthdate did, indeed, include the numbers two and three, and then she said, “Hmmmph.”
That’s when I knew I was in the right place, and that no matter what happened, everything was going to be okay.
~ February 3, 2023
*Post-script: I started to title this “Why I don’t feel the need to name the unknown,” but I didn’t want to get into a religious debate 😉