When I was young I remember reading a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure. They were fascinating because they weren’t just by one author, and yet they all carried the same theme, or gimmick — the ability of the reader to determine how the story would unfold. I loved to reach the pages where the choices were outlined for me, to make one decision and move to page 50, or make another and move to page 56.
I never cheated either, going both routes, one after the other. I always took the one path to its inevitable conclusion, whichever page it happened to end up on. And when I was done with that path I was done with the book. I knew some kids who did cheat, who read the entire book, who took every single path. They were gluttonous, probably the same kids who grew up to be in front of me at the Harry Potter book premiere and gave away the ending.
The charm of Choose Your Own Adventure books was that, unlike regular books, the progression seemed like it was my own choice instead of something prescribed by the author. It gave me the feeling that I was in control of the experience, something that was pretty huge in the mid-80s when I first read the books.
It’s the feeling of control that makes me think of my own life, and of the decisions I’ve made along the way that brought me here. I had a conversation with my daughter the other day about how our lives might be drastically different if my wife and I had simply made different decisions along the way, things that might have seemed innocuous at the time but in hindsight were incredibly important.
Decision #1 – In the spring of 2002 I was faced with a difficult choice. Should I make the safe move back to Philadelphia or should I take the risky path to Newport? Everything would hinge on it because while Philadelphia was safe, and had my support system intact, it was five and a half hours away from the woman I knew even at that point that I loved. But in Newport she was the only person I knew. She would be my entire support system, a woman I hadn’t even known existed 8 months before.
I chose Newport, and that changed my life.