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It’s always a struggle to know when to interpret day-to-day events as indications of larger lessons we must learn. It’s also a toss-up to know what to blow-off as something that just “happened” without an enlightened message to walk away with.

These questions all came to a head yesterday when I faced-off with a fortune cookie.

I was set to meet one of my girlfriends for dinner, but when she couldn’t find the restaurant, she sat down at an Asian-inspired pub and ordered a beer, exhausted but happy after her first day on the job as a reporter for Women’s Wear Daily’sMemo Pad.”

I’d arrived by the time she finished her beer, and the waiter brought us the check–and our predetermined fates–couched inside two innocent-looking fortune cookies. Still beaming from the new conditions of her life, my friend opened her cookie with vigor, read the fortune, and started laughing. “The bottom is crowded, there’s plenty of room at the top,” it read. Her interpretation? “I can’t believe I am getting this fortune on the day I started a new job!”

Though I wasn’t planning on opening the second cookie, curiosity got the better of me and, deciding to see what my fabulous fortune might be, I ripped into the plastic, cracked the cookie open and found–emptiness. And not that kind of enlightened emptiness the Buddha talked about. This cookie was just plain empty. Bare. Vacant.

“Oh my God, I am going to cry!” I said to my friend, referring to some guy drama that had been occupying much of my thoughts lately. “Is the fortune cookie telling me my life is empty?!” She quickly chimed in, “I really wouldn’t worry about it. I am sure it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a fortune cookie.”

Sure, easy for her to say–her cookie (and its eagerly embraced message) promised a quick rise through the professional ranks. Mine promised… nothing. No quick rise or dramatic fall. Nothing. I refused to eat the cookie in an effort not to imbibe its message.

So was this just something that “happened” that I shouldn’t infuse with meaning? After all, I didn’t spend a cent at the restaurant: Did they owe me any glimpse of my future? Or was my fortune-cookie fluke some unwelcome foreshadowing?

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