The Domino Effect: Finding Purpose in Life's Surprises

As a child, my sister and I played a lot with dominoes - lining them up, cursing (don't worry - just "darn" and "drat" at that age!) when they fell down prematurely and clapping when all the dominoes collapsed according to plan.

During this last week, though, I've been thinking more about dominoes...but in the form of the Domino Effect. Basically, the Domino Effect is the chain reaction produced when one event triggers other events. What domino effect have I been thinking about? The surprises in life - both good, bad and utterly heartbreaking - that have led to me starting grad school in five short months.

The Domino Effect: Finding Purpose in Life's Surprises

In a way, I suppose my story starts over five years ago on a plane. I wasn't there, but my grandma was, flying from Houston, Texas to visit us in sunny Poway, California. She talked to a woman across the aisle about a small, Christian college called Point Loma Nazarene University. A few weeks later, we drove up to visit - we figured, "Why not?" I loved the school's size and views, received an academic scholarship and, suddenly, I was a PLNU student.

But my story also starts in a doctor's office, in May of 2013. I'd been losing weight, battling constant acid reflux and feeling more tired than usual - but I never expected celiac disease to enter the picture. When I heard the news from my doctor, I didn't even know how to spell "gluten." Yet, my mom helped me survive the first grocery trip where we had to read ingredient labels. Yet, my dad reminded me I was strong and beautiful even as I was hospitalized for celiac complications. Yet, I started a blog weeks after my diagnosis because I couldn't find many blogs about going to college with celiac disease was really like...and I've been writing here ever since.

Casey the College Celiac GFAF Expo
Gluten free for the win!
That one plane ride - and that one medical diagnosis - changed everything, you could say. At PLNU, I learned how to cook because my college cafeteria couldn't provide celiac-safe, gluten free meals. I picked four random acquaintances - mutual friends, Meghan and Brooke; biology class BFF, Hannah; nice girl across the hall, Sarah - to live with in an on-campus apartment (so I could have my own kitchen)...and I found four good friends in the process. I fell in love with a boy - and was blindsided by a breakup nearly two years into our relationship.

The rest of that semester - having four classes with my ex - was one of the hardest. Yet, looking back, it was also the start of so many beautiful opportunities.

The same night he said it was over, I started a grad school spreadsheet. Suddenly, I was free of my ties to California...and I decided to apply to grad schools all over the U.S.

The Domino Effect: Finding Purpose in Life's Surprises
Read all my writing for Entity Magazine here!

A few weeks later, with too much time on my hands, I added my resume to an internships website. A few days later, I was contacted by Entity Magazine - would I be interested in helping launch a magazine all about empowering women? I wasn't looking for a summer internship, but I said yes. And I said yes again when I received the chance to serve as Entity's Senior Editor after I graduated college.

Months after the breakup, I even met someone else. I wasn't looking - all I wanted to do was graduate from PLNU and move onto the next adventure - but we found each other anyway. I learned more about what I really needed from a partner and what I wasn't getting from my first relationship. I discovered that there really are other fish in the sea, and that going with the flow can help you find them. And while distance means we've agreed to become just friends, I know the good memories and lessons from this relationship will stick with me.

Casey the College Celiac: finding purpose in life's surprises
The sneaky "take a photo while they take a photo" shot...
That latter phrase - "good memories and lessons will stick with me" - is true of every part of my journey. When all the grad school responses were tallied, I was rejected by a whopping 10 schools...and accepted (with a full-tuition-waiver and stipend) by one.

Would I have gotten into Minnesota State University, Mankato without the work experience of Entity? The literary passion and writing portfolio fostered by my teachers at PLNU? The support of my college friends and family? The heartbreak-fueled freedom to just chase my dreams, wherever grad school might take me? I honestly can't say.

I can say, though, that college, celiac disease, relationships, my first full-time job and the grad school application process has forced me to grow in so many more ways than I ever imagined. I've been pushed - sometimes to the breaking point - but I've also been remolded into a stronger, more passionate, confident version of myself.

The Domino Effect: Finding Purpose in Life's Surprises
Outside our yoga studio last weekend...
I had no idea what any of these (sometimes small) decisions would trigger. All I know? I'm going to keep saying yes - to MSU Mankato, to teaching my first college class, to having my own apartment - and I'm excited to see what domino will fall next.

*Also found at Flaunt it Friday, Share Fest, Inspiration Monday, What'd You Do This Weekend*

What is one domino in your life that fell and triggered some amazing opportunities? Tell me your stories!


  1. this is inspiring, and very similar to a post I am crafting - what a lot you can learn from hindsight and time passing. your journey sounds like it was all worth it, if it has lead to where you are now.

    1. Thanks Meg! I'm sure your post will be equally as inspiring a read!

  2. Crazy how things fall apart so better things can fall together- so happy you're finding your bliss!

  3. What a positive outlook! Keep looking for new opportunities and they will be there for you to find!

  4. You have a great positive outlook. Thanks for sharing your story!

  5. Love your story. Beautifully told and thoughtful. I am sure there have been many domino effects in my life but probably one of the best is after my divorce saying yes when my cousin wanted to help me set up an online dating profile. 7 years later I'm married to the love of my life! Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Thank you so much, Christy. I hope I can have an equally great love story to tell in the end :)


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