personal development · Work

The Adventures We Choose

With the exception of a new bed (thank goodness), my husband’s room at his parent’s house is pretty much unchanged since he last lived there 20 years ago.

Panoramic class photos from high school are tacked on the wall, the fashion trends of the mid-1990s forever encapsulated. Signed baseballs, yearbooks and a C.S. Lewis series fill the shelves on his old bookcase.

And wedged in between the high school and sports memorabilia is an extensive collection of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. Every time we travel to my husband’s hometown, as I get settled into his childhood room for our stay, I smile when I see the books and think about the many hours I spent reading them (and re-reading them choosing the different options) as a young girl.

Last week during our holiday visit, I decided to flip through one, The Cave of Time, and see if I was still as indecisive as I was as a child. And I was. I vacillated between my two choices even now, wanting to skip ahead and see how Option A/B would turn out to make sure I didn’t die or end up drifting out at sea or in space by myself (because if you don’t return home safely in these books, you are almost always left to fend for yourself in a strange land). After all these years, I still felt a familiar dread when faced with a life-story-altering decision.

Perhaps this apprehension is derived from the foreboding introduction (appropriately titled “Warning!!!!”) in the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Here is an excerpt:

The adventures you take are a result of your choice. You are responsible because you choose!

Remember — you cannot go back! Think carefully before you make a move! One mistake can be your last… or it may lead you to fame and fortune!

In real life, our choices are not usually so dichotomous, but the fact remains that much of what happens in our lives — our adventures — are because of our own actions. Of course there are circumstances we do not ask for, but how we move forward from them and plot the rest of our lives is still our choice. And that is simultaneously empowering and scary.

College students face this with when choosing a major. As adults, we deliberate on career and relationship decisions constantly. And in truly difficult times, such as grief, we have to accept that the option we wanted to take is no longer available. Sheryl Sandberg wrote about this so beautifully in her tribute to her late husband a month after his death.

A new year always brings decisions, in the form of resolutions and new beginnings, into the limelight. I work in higher education so time is forever marked on an academic calendar for me. When people in December say “next year,” I wonder why they are already talking about August.

But this time of year is still significant for me. When I returned to my job after maternity leave, I entered into an agreement with myself that I could re-evaluate this decision every semester. It’s how I grapple with this difficult choice and the self-doubt and second-guessing that comes along with it.

I am happy and content with my work/life balance right now, and this semester the decision-making process was fleeting. There wasn’t much on which to deliberate. Next semester it could be different. Or it could not. Either way, I am grateful that this is actually a choice.

I have noticed in myself and in working with students that when I am stuck in terms of making a decision, it is usually for one of three reasons:

  1. I don’t have enough information to make an informed decision.
  2. I am worried about what others will think of the decision (external influence).
  3. We are over-inflating the outcome (i.e. if I pick the wrong college major, I will have to work in that field for the rest of my life).

And most of all, I just wish I could flip a few pages ahead and see what will happen before each decision. But don’t we all?  Whatever decisions and goals you are embarking on in 2016, I wish you luck as you weigh your options and make the best choice possible. You most likely will not end up adrift in the Bermuda Triangle (another classic Choose Your Own Adventure path) and you can always course-correct, so try not to sweat it too much!

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4 thoughts on “The Adventures We Choose

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