When I was a kid I used to love reading Choose Your Own Adventure novellas. Choose Your Own Adventure was a series of children’s gamebooks in which the reader was given control of the protagonist through choices presented at various points throughout the tale. About forty different endings were possible depending upon the decisions you made. I had always been an avid reader, but the ability to suddenly control a character’s fate brought reading to a whole new level.
Unfortunately, my first read through of a new story usually ended rather quickly. Not because I was a particularly fast reader, but because of the decisions I made. Given the choice I would poke the sleeping dragon instead of tiptoeing past, jump in the river instead of first checking for piranha, and torment the angry natives rather than trying to make friends. I was never cautious with my character. It was therefore never really a surprise when I ended up being eaten, bludgeoned, poisoned, burned or killed by whatever horrific means the author had thought up. I was never upset, though. I just turned back to page one and started again.
These novels gave me the chance to live adventures that I wouldn’t likely have experienced so I brought on the excitement whenever I could. Alas, my childhood addiction to these Choose Your Own Adventure books seemed to have had an adverse effect on how I made my own, real life decisions.
I am sure that if my life had been a Choose Your Own Adventure, it mighthave gone something like this:
You are a first year student at a fairly prestigious Canadian university. You claim to be working towards a degree in psychology; however, most of your most of your research and studying into the human psyche is done around the common room table playing euchre or at one of the many campus pubs drinking copious amounts of alcohol.
It is January and the cold bite of winter’s breath stings your bare hands as you stumble home from Alfie’s, your favorite campus watering hole. Many of your friends remain there partying to the sounds of REM, Nirvana and Spirit of the West. However, you and a friend have made the prudent choice to stagger home and try to sleep off the effects of another night of overindulgent drinking.
Walking along on the campus streets, feeling the warm rush of pub life flowing through your veins, you begin to serenade the barren trees and gray limestone walls with slurred words and an out of tune voice. Your crooning is suddenly interrupted by sounds of revelry and excitement coming from behind you. You sway a little and turn your head.
You are almost blinded by the bright lights of the local pub shuttle. It is returning from the downtown bars and is packed full of drunken students.
You hear a voice coming from inside the yellow bus. It is calling to you. “Shane! Shane!” You squint your eyes in an attempt to focus. You see a pair of arms sticking out of a window, waving in your direction. You recognize the woman who is calling to you. She lives a few floors up from you in Victoria Hall. The excitement of seeing so many drunken people in a moving vehicle wakes you up. Suddenly you are full of the energy that had while dancing at the pub a few minutes before.
If you wave at your friend as she passes by and continue back to your residence room, turn to page 27
If you decide you are not ready to go to sleep after all and head back to the pub, turn to page 18
If you decide to sprint towards the bus and leap into the open window, turn to page 38
If you are anything like me, you decided to turn to page 38. This, of course, leads to you slipping, falling, having your foot run over by the pub shuttle and spending a few hours in emergency. Your foot is badly bruised but not broken. You wind up walking with crutches for the next few weeks. You learn that although you lack the coordination to leap into moving vehicles, your bones are strong enough to withstand the weight of a school bus. You are ready for your next adventure.
Rush, by Big Audio Dynamite, brings back a lot of great university memories. Upon hearing the first few bars of music, I am transported to to floor crawls, pub crawls, common room mayhem and all the other debauchery that colored my four years of undergraduate life. I wonder what I might have amounted to had I spent a few more hours in the library rather than out with my friends.
However, such a quandary is futile and unnecessary. As I told a good friend of mine a couple of days ago when she mentioned that she wished she had been bolder as a girl, life wouldn’t have worked out as perfectly as it did had we been a product of different choices. Sure, I could have studied harder and made better decisions, but would I be as happy now if I did?
As the song says, “If I had the chance again. I would do it all the same. I wouldn’t change a single thing.”
Except maybe falling under a moving bus.
Rush youtube link