Choose Your Own Adventure

By: Andrew Dollar

As a young boy, I loved reading choose your own adventure books. The first few chapters were the formative parts. The story introduced the main characters, key conflicts, and the ultimate plot line. And then you reached a critical junction. Do you enter the mysterious cave alone or do you wait for help? Each decision altered the trajectory of the story and onward you went into the new plot line.

Life, really, is not all that different. Every few months, maybe years, life presents an encounter, a challenging crossroad, or key decision point that potentially alters your current path. Some of us charge into that mysterious cave. Others wait for help. And then there are those that are figuratively paralyzed by the entire process and spend their time looking at the situation from all different angles. Each of these represent a choice. You make the selection, turn the page, and begin the next chapter.

I often think of life as a book. Central to this thought is that I am my own protagonist surrounded by a cast of characters, many who come and go from the story. Some storylines are short and play out over weeks and months. Other storylines play out over years and decades. I also have a tendency or natural inclination to compartmentalize most things in life. So it is no surprise that I often view big decisions as opportunities, a new chapter, if you will. Then it is up to me to choose the adventure I want to go on for the next few pages.

Several months ago, my family and I made a difficult decision to leave our community and relocate to Athens. My wife left behind a home she loved. My son said goodbye to all his friends. I left the community in which I started both a family and a business. It was time for us to choose our next adventure. We are writing that next chapter as we speak.

When you reach that critical juncture in a choose-your-own-adventure book, you don’t know what awaits you. Sometimes, the choice leads to prosperity and a turn of good fortune. Other times, the character faces hardship, overcomes new challenges, or even faces their own demise. More than the choice we make, it is often our actions and response to the new provocations that ultimately creates the narrative for our story. Do we rise up and face the unknown in the cave? Do we join with our neighbors to explore the cave together? Or do we let the narrative consume us and detract us from our purpose?

This year has been quite an adventure for all of us. Each of us has faced different depths of adversity ranging from a pandemic, economic uncertainty, national unrest, and much more. As we bring 2020 to a close, it is important to remember that you are the protagonist of your own story. Life will always throw difficult decisions and experiences your way. Sometimes the right path is abundantly clear. More often, the route is rather obscure. But each decision point is an opportunity to write the next chapter in the story of you. What do you want your story to be about in 2021?
By: Andrew Dollar
Director, Center for Lifelong Learning – 121 South Marion Street, Athens, AL 35611 – 256-233-8262