I'm off to a wedding in Canada which means dealing with the bureaucracy of the Electronic Travel Authorisation.
The form asked me if I'd ever had a previous visa for Canadaland. As it happens, yes! I spent a year studying in Ottawa.
Well then, said the form, you'd better tell me your old visa number.
In amongst the various shoe boxen which serve as my ersatz filing system lay a tatty old passport. Crumpled in it was a fading visa, the ink smeared with a barely legible reference number. I entered it, and mighty Eunomia - goddess of paperwork - seemed satisfied with my offering and let me continue with my journey.
Flicking through the leaves, I noticed my entry stamp for my original visit to the Canada.
Today. Twenty-three years ago.
Coincidences are meaningless. But that doesn't mean we can't try and find meaning in them.
I wonder how I've changed in the intervening years? I'm still a long-haired nerd who only wears jeans & t-shirts. I still stay up too late reading and programming computers. I'm probably happier now - despite being less carefree. More assertive while also being more thoughtful. Less internalised misogyny and a greater sense of equality. I became vegetarian while in Canada - and still am. I feel like I was better at making friends back then, but that's the nature of throwing teens together in a strange environment. I'm better at self-directed learning, and probably just as bad as I ever was at procrastinating.
Is that enough? Do I have to change? Can't I just be 19 forever?
By yet another coincidence, today is also my 6 year anniversary of joining the Civil Service.
I wonder how I've changed in the intervening years? I'm still a long-haired weirdo who only wears jeans & t-shirts in meetings with ministers and other senior bods. I feel more confident in challenging things that I think are wrong, but less certain of my deeply held beliefs. Some of the shine has rubbed off - but I still feel pride telling people what I do for a living. My subject-matter expertise has grown, but I wonder if I'm making the best use of it. I feel like I'm better at making connections with people - but still just as bad as I ever was at remembering names.
All of which is to say that time marches on inexorably. But "meaningless" coincidences help me compare and contrast what my life was like and what it is like.
Perhaps those two data-points are enough to extrapolate what my life will be like? Or, more importantly, what I want it to be like?