Revisiting the fork.

This is a question I’ve asked before, sort of, and it’s been on my mind again recently. Not for any particular reason, I don’t think. I don’t think I even have my own answer off the top of my head. But I guess I’m interested in what you’ve got to say.

I think in the past I asked if you could think of a time where you had to make a choice, and you knew – or now know – that the choice you made at the time had a notable affect on the way your life went from them on. I guess I’m basically asking the same thing again, but with some refinements.

First, can you think of a specific decision you’ve made in your life – like do you right now remember what the choice was, and what your options were, and can you say what path that specific decision put your life on, and take a good guess at what you think might have happened if you made the other choice? Or one of the other choices, if there was more than one?

Maybe something like, on such and such a day, you decided to get coffee at a new place instead of your usual place. In doing that, you met the person who later introduced you to your husband. Had you gone to your usual place instead, you wouldn’t have met that person, and maybe you would have gone to more college and taken a totally different job and lived a whole new life because you didn’t meet your husband and decide together with him on a different career path for yourself. I mean something specific like that, where you can point to the exact choice that ended up leading your a certain way. Can you think of one of those in your life? Big or little. Can you bring one of those really specific choices to mind, even if at the time you were making the choice, it wasn’t obvious that it would end up being significant or the first step in a chain of events?

Now, I think the last time I asked a question like this, I stopped there, but today I have more to add. Starting with the obvious – if you could go back to that decision with all the knowledge you have now of the way that decision ended up pushing your life to the place it is now, would you make the same decision again? Like you made a choice that lead to you living in, say, Oklahoma, and another option would have lead you to California. Life is good in Oklahoma, but you can go back and make the choice again, leading to California instead, but with full memory of your Oklahoma life. If you apply that idea to the specific decision you have in mind, would you do it?

And how about this – if someone came to you right now and said something like, hey, remember that decision you made? I have a one time offer for you to go back to that day and make the opposite choice or pick a different option or whatever, and your life will go forward from that point, but without knowing what you know now about the way your life actually turned out. You get to get a do over, pick the other thing, without ever remembering what happened when you made the original choice. So, for example, if you had made a choice that lead to you living in Oklahoma and the other choice would have lead you to California, maybe you wouldn’t want to go back and change it because, you know, life in Oklahoma hasn’t turned out so bad and you don’t know that you’d want to miss out on that. But you’re getting the chance to make the California decision as if you’d never made the Oklahoma decision. You’d never know the difference or what you’d be missing. Then would you do it?

Anyway, I spend a lot of time laying really still and thinking, I guess.

11 thoughts on “Revisiting the fork.

  1. Natalie

    I have one: nearly 11 years ago I was fairly new at my job, and in talking to a co worker I said I lived in (unusual name town). He replied that another new co worker lived there too, and I promptly emailed her and we became instant friends. And then instant couple friends as we were both married and childless.

    I would definitely do it again, we find it difficult to make friends because of reasons. Things have changed a lot since we had a baby, as is usual, but we had a lot of good years of people we could always rely on and vice versa.

  2. Swistle

    Okay, I thought of one. I met my first husband because of a game played during a freshman orientation mixer in college, and I almost didn’t go to that mixer. If I hadn’t gone, it’s very unlikely we would have met: we never had any classes or friends in common. I’d kind of like to take that back, if I could, because that relationship turned out pretty badly in a number of ways. On the other hand, it was probably because of that bad marriage that I started dating Paul. So I couldn’t take back the decision to go to that mixer, because I’d be afraid it would end up with no Paul. Well, or maybe I would have met someone just as good as Paul? or someone just as good as Paul who ALSO knew how to load a dishwasher? Boy, it’s a hard question to answer.

  3. BKC

    October 31, 2005 I started a night time paper route. The first night was difficult because I can’t read a map and I fell a lot in the dark and I almost quit. But I decided I am not a quitter, so I went back the next night and met my daughter’s father. We were pregnant by the next June. I was seventeen.

    I was JUST thinking about this Fork Question the other night, as I read through our custody agreement to try and settle a dispute we’re having. If I’d quit that night, I would absolutely not have my kiddo. And ohhhh how I loathe that man, and parenthood, so often. But I would never NOT want to be Lily’s mom. Going too far down the rabbit hole makes me queasy.

  4. Karen P

    Whenever things seem to be going badly in my life, I stop and think “Wait! Maybe this is the DO-OVER” (Probably the result of 65 years of reading science fiction.) Anyway, it helps me sometimes to think that what is actually happening is NOT AS BAD as the first version. So I should just deal with it.

  5. Nick

    I can think of several times when I’ve made decisions and could have gone another way. A do-over though? How can I know what the turn-out would be? Obviously I can’t and therefore I wouldn’t want to. THe potential there for losing people in my life, most notably my wife and daughter due to other choices I could have made is something I wouldn’t want to place in jeopardy. Is my life perfect? No it isn’t, but then neither is anybody’s, so, as I am the product of my life lived I’m actually remarkably at peace with that and unmaking some choices, while I think it might be good, could lead me to a place where I don’t have the good things I have now.

  6. Jess

    The most obvious of these for me was my choice to go on Craigslist to peruse the personal ads at the exact moment in my life that I did, as that was when I found and eventually (three days later) responded to Torsten’s ad. I would most definitely make that choice again. Of course I don’t know what the other road might have looked like… single, maybe met a guy some other place, maybe still single, maybe no kids… but I am exactly where I want to be right now, so yeah, would definitely make the choice again.

    The choice to live in Denver wasn’t precipitated by anything in particular since we picked it off a map and moved here with no real cause, so it’s not like the Oklahoma vs. California question exactly, but yes, if we were choosing where to live again, we would still choose here.

    Xoxo sorry you have to spend so much time lying still.

  7. Kara

    In February 2005 we had just sold our first house and were trying to find a larger home to move into (comedy of errors in the AZ boom market of the time- an investor gave us an offer we couldn’t refuse, ridiculously above market, no contingencies, etc) and were sitting on a nice chunk of profit. We almost moved back to our home state at that time. Just as I was going to give notice at work at pack it up, my husband got a huge promotion at his job and we wound up staying in Arizona, and continue to stay. Was it the right decision? Looking back, no. We should have moved when we had the chance. Now, we’re 10 years into our mortgage, the kids are settled and getting into middle school ages. Moving at this point would be starting over and not in a good way. Moving then would have been better in the long run and probably would be a better life than we have now. Our current choices are limited and would be less limited in our home state.

  8. Alice

    I sometimes think I made the wrong choice in the college I chose to go to. I only stayed in touch with a very limited few people from school, as opposed to HS, where despite all of us moving away / never living there in the first place – it was a boarding school – I’m still VERY good friends with many many people. So I thought maybe I picked the wrong school and life would have turned out very differently if I hadn’t gone there.

    HOWEVER, my first job out of school, at US Airways, was 100% due to a hook up from one of the few people I do remain friends with from college, and that job precipitated my move to Northern VA where I had 0 connections or friends (save that one dude) or any reason to either move to or stay in… and I’m here 13+ years later and wouldn’t change that.

    SO. I always think that even if I picked the wrong college and would have chosen a different fork there, I actually *wouldn’t* overall because I don’t think there’s any other way I would have moved here after school otherwise.

  9. Monika Spykerman

    Yup, I do have an example: We lived in L.A. Our friends moved to WA state, and we wanted to move, too, because we believed WA would be a better long-term fit for our family–but hadn’t been able to find jobs in WA in order to fund the move. After a couple years, our friends bought a second house. They offered to rent us their original house, as long as we could could guarantee rent while we were job hunting. We’d just gotten an inheritance from my husband’s family, so we figured we could make it work. We had to decide: quit our stable jobs and move to an unknown future with the possibility for long-term happiness, or stay with our current stable-but-unrewarding situation in CA? We chose the move. That was 2007–just before the recession hit. Was it hard? Fuck yeah. It was 8 years before my husband found a good job. I did often wonder where I’d be if I’d stayed in my stable job–I fantasized about how much money I’d be making, and affording manicures and vacations and, like, actual meat and stuff. But I never regretted the choice I made when I came to the fork in the road. Our lives are so much better here, in ways that don’t have anything to do with manicures. Although now I can also afford manicures and meat, so BOOM! TAKE THAT, FORK!

  10. lindsay

    I’d say there’s one relationship-ish relationship that I wish I would’ve been better at in college. I was so emo and unable to be real about anything. I wish I would’ve done that differently. It’s hard to admit that, to be honest.

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