I think that to try to even have this talk we have to draw some lines in the sand (read: if we don’t define what we think a soul mate is, there’s no way to answer this question / also read: this answer will not survive high-tide).
I think that if there is a ‘standard’ definition for “soul mate” it would probably be the idea that each person has “a perfect match — the yin to yang, part two of a two-part puzzle; a companion who, should we not find, and (re)unite with, neither piece/person can be complete — a unliaterally reciprocal compliment.”
Seriously think about the implications of that for a moment… For me, if we accept that to be a working “soul mate” defintion, then we also have to accept one of two ideas:
1) Our lives are not an accident. We are here because we’re supposed to be (more on this in a bit), or…
2) Our lives are random exercises in combinatory genetics and circumstantial probability. For ‘soul mates’ to exist in this scenario, I imagine the idea would be that we all start off as a part of a pair before being separated at-or-before birth. (It’s a reach to think we have souls if we are random happenings, but) We will be born and live our lives without a name for the yearning and incompleteness our souls carry for decades during which we will be too consumed by our childhood, adolescence, and the post-adolescent cocaine-and-other-drug-or-drink-or-whatever-you-do-it’s-cool-no-judgement-I-just-wanted-to-have-fun-too-but-be-safe-because-ODing-is-a-serious-problem phase of our lives called our twenties. There will be a lottery-odds-at-best few who will have their high-school sweethearts turn out to be the love-of-their-lives, and everyone will hate them for making it all look so damn easy — and they’ll probably (statistically) still break up at 35 when hubby comes home early after cancelling his afternoon affair for the day to find his wife taking a long lunch break on the kitchen counter with her work-husband (we know about him, ladies — we’re not amused)… Sorry. I digress. Where was I… Oh. Okay… Blah blah blah blah pair, separated at birth, blah blah blah, we turn 27 and realize that we need some help solving this emptiness, and our souls have grown into this super weird shape with all kinds of caverns and a weird erosion pattern that gives us edges that are round and sharp at the same time, and soft and rough at the same time, and pretty and ugly-as-hell at the same time; we keep crashing into other people and cutting ourselves further, and breaking off pieces of ourselves further, and we sit there and look at the stitch marks and the chipped edges and wonder what of this was “supposed to happen,” and what has just been “what has happened in a world where everyone, regardless of any God’s plans, has personal dominion enough to just make a sharp left turn in the middle of a block into oncoming traffic if they feel inclined to do so…” We’re 27 and now we want to not be alone. We’re 27 and we want not to be alone, and we want to find cures to not-alone-ness via the one person built to solve that exact dilemma. The one random soul who can mate with our incongruencies to make us into something symmetrical.
Problem: She lives in India, I live in Detroit, and we’ll never meet or speak the same language. We are each doomed to walk the earth lonely.
Problem: He died in a car accident at 16 when he wouldn’t tell his buddies not to drive drunk, and got in the car, and they couldn’t swerve fast enough to avoid that one personal dominion guy who made the sharp left into oncoming traffic, so she’ll never meet him.
What we’re saying here is that we have maybe one shot to get this right. Somewhere there is a person who was carved from the negative space we left in the clay we were sculpted out of. If that person dies, we lose the capacity to ever whole ourselves, and are doomed to walk the earth searching for meaning in vain while we wait for our death, and maybe then, reuniting with our other-and-probably-best-described-as-better half.
Problem: There’s no reasonable way to discuss our “soul mates” without also discussing our God(s) and/or our faith.
The question of soul mates, for me is answered by asking myself the following question(s): “Do I believe that God has not left my life to chance, or given me choice by accident? Do I think I’m ‘supposed’ to do anything or be anywhere? Was I built and deployed with a purpose? Am I supposed to do anything other than be born (got it), live a bit (working on it), and die (snooze button, please)?”
Depending on how you feel about those, I think the question of whether or not you see your life as an exercise in random probability will certainly make it difficult, or will it breathtakingly easy, to support the idea of there being only-one-soul-mate-who-you-might-or-might-not-ever-find-needle-and-haystack-style-out-of-soon-to-be-eleventy-billion-people-overcrowding-this-earth.
Life is hard, and I believe in God. I believe that there is a plan for my life — an opportunity for me to pursue my personal growth and unbeaten path towards some messy rendition of the vision A Perfect Hand drew for me — I believe that I don’t always need to understand, but that I always need to listen. I believe that I have spent most of my life not listening, and have still managed to feel like I might be able to find the path again.
I don’t believe that evolution has been random. I don’t believe we are born or crafted without conscience. I don’t believe all of our paths are the same, or look the same, or even look related — I don’t believe we will all die in the hands of a human who loves us. I think some of us might struggle to not be lonely, as so often we (read: Me, Niles) only know how to rely only on humans to keep us company. But, I do believe we are provided the things that we need. I do believe that we are given hands and mouths for kissing and holding and hearts for loving, and hurts to break us so we can understand what it is to be healed by ourselves, by someone else, and by God. I do believe that God gives us enough wing to cross over the gaps we find.
I can say unequivocally that there are people I was blessed to have in my life — people who have forced or helped or watch or otherwise been present for my growth. People I could not be who I am without. People placed here to make me better — and for whom I have been given the ability to help. As corny or cliche as it might sound: I do believe in soul mates. I don’t know how many we get (I don’t understand why we would only get one life-changing-person per trip to earth). I know that they are not mistakes. I know the neither I, nor she, are mistakes.
So I guess my answer, now that I’ve ranted more than was reasonable is this: You are not a mistake. You are not a random occurence. You are necessary. So live your life as though that’s the case, and do your best to listen to your soul. You’ll know they are the one when you feel, after all this living you’ve been doing, like a person again.