I find it remarkable and often stimulating to look back at the defining moments in my life - forks in the road where the chosen path significantly affected where I am and who I am today. It's also interesting that most of these came to happen after I had left home. I guess it makes sense since while there I was hardly in control of my own future. Independence yields control yields decisions yields crossroads.
Nevertheless, it would be remiss to omit the one path taken that allowed all the others. It's also worth noting this decision happened while I was still at home (serving as the one major exception to my initial claim). It was the decision to leave home – to transfer colleges and go to Clemson. As some things in life, this was a decision taken with very little research – it was all gut. Going to Clemson provided an immediate satisfaction to a need and the need was to leave home. I wanted to leave not for any reason in particular other than I was desperate for a radical change of scenery, a fresh start. I believe nothing else would've shaken me out of the funk I'd gotten into. How I ended in Clemson is another story and question I get asked often. "Why Clemson?" The story is quite unique, I guess, and so I have cubed about it in my Tigers section.
Once there, independence (as much as can be had while parents control the purse strings) set in. There was a string of crossroads, decisions that sequentially got me to where I am today. Without getting into the gory details I can mention four that happened within a year's time: 1. Bold and adventurous internet browsing in a computer lab (I must've been crazy) 2. The discovery of IRC (an obsession that opened me up to a new world) 3. Attending an on-campus meeting (a huge step into the unknown) 4. An overnight trip to Atlanta (bar hopping, clubbing, meeting new people, and driving back)
Cryptic? Yes. Do I need to be? Probably not. Probably so. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that these seemingly inconsequential events were incredibly significant in the course of my life. I can trace back who I am now to those significant forks in the road and I can denote how those choices changed me – contributed to form the person I am today.
Want more? Here are a few – these over a span of almost ten years: 1. Rekindling a friendship over email and chat 2. A rendezvous after my graduation 3. Taking a late night/early morning phone call 4. Accepting an offer for my first "real" job 5. Switching careers 6. Enrolling in graduate school
Picture a tree that has the person I used to be in the trunk and an endless amount of possibilities of who I could have been today standing at every leaf's end. Every single branch (node) denotes a path taken and at least one not taken. If I could look at all those other unfulfilled alternatives how would I feel about the choices that have led me to who and where I am today? Is it cliché to say I wouldn't have wanted it any other way?
Life is a terminal (we will die) string of decisions – some good, some bad. It is what you learn and gain from both that should determine success. I can look back at my life, at my decisions and comfortably say that I have learned, grown on every turn. When I assess where I am, who I am with regard to the alternative result of a different path, I can honestly say I can't complain. Could I have been better off? Possibly. Could I have been worse off? More likely. This serves as a good reality-check to assess how far I've come. It also allows me to chart out a correction path in case I feel I'm heading down a less-than-desirable avenue. It is the ability to see past the branches and to the leaves that simplifies and supports making tough decisions.