I loved reading gamebooks as a teenager in Nigeria. This is because they were the most interactive books at the time. Gamebooks aka ‘choose your own adventure books’ presented the reader with two decisions from page one and you were required to make a choice before you can proceed with the story. It meant you had to think for the main character and make decisions on his or her behalf. Each decision had a consequence and each decision led to another page with two more decision choices. This meant that gamebooks had multiple endings and not all of them were pleasant endings for the main character.
I heard a preacher a couple of weeks ago talk about a period in his life when he and a friend were at T- junctions in terms of decision-making. He was faced with two choices. He chose one option and his friend chose the other. The preacher’s life, with the benefit of hindsight, has turned out much, much better than his friend’s fate. The preacher’s T-junction story made me think of one particular T-junction decision which has had a big impact on my life.
The year was 2006 and I was in desperate need of a job. My current research contract was running out and I had applied for several research positions. I was invited to attend two interviews which happened to be on the same day but in two different regions. I contacted the university in Sheffield and asked them if they were willing to re-arrange the interview for me so I could attend at an earlier date. They agreed. This meant that I was able to attend the Sheffield interview and still go for the Lancashire interview.
I was on my way home from the Lancashire interview when my phone rang at the Carlisle train station. It was the Sheffield interview panel offering me the job. Just as they asked if I wanted the job; I could see that I had another phone call. I knew it was the Lancashire folks. I told the Sheffield caller to give me two days to decide and got off the phone in time to pick up Lancashire call. They also offered me a job. I went from no job to two jobs in five minutes at that train station. I asked Lancashire to also give me two days to decide.
I eventually chose Sheffield and as a consequence met my wife at Sheffield and many other fantastic people who I regard as good friends. These are people that I probably would never have met if I had decided to go to Lancashire instead. I would have met different people and lived a different life. I am glad to say I have no regrets choosing Sheffield over Lancashire. I believe we are all defined in some way by our decisions and by the detours we take in life. I am where I am and who I am because of my decisions and detours.
One of my favourite poems is Robert Frost’s ‘The road not taken’ in which he describes a T-junction decision. I would encourage you it to read it.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.