I wasn’t much of a reader growing up, but I would see my sister reading her Sweet Valley High (SVH) books and wondered how she could enjoy books without pictures. Once, she had a Halloween SVH story which I got intrigued by because it’s not as girly as her other book.
It was enjoyable enough for me to try and find something that’s more for me. It was then that I discovered books called Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA).
These are the books I consistently got from the library. (Image Source)
For the uninformed, or for the younger people, CYOA was a series of books that are not necessarily connected but are exactly what you think they are.
In nerd terms, it’s basically playing Dungeons and Dragons by yourself. Simply put, you literally choose how your adventure will go.
It starts off by establishing a setting as told by the story’s narrator. Then it zeroes into the protagonist – you. As the story goes along, you will be presented with choices.
For example, the story is about a camping trip. You were walking along the river and suddenly heard a loud noise. Your friend says you should check it out. If you think you should check it out, you turn to page xx, but if you think it’s too dangerous, turn to page yy.
It has so many outcomes which could let you finish a story in 10 minutes or an hour, depending on what you choose to do.
I think what drew me to those books was my natural instinct to be in control and my fear of the unknown.
I would literally spend hours reading those books, marking where I probably made the wrong choice that led me into a series of unfavorable situations. I didn’t want to end the book without knowing what happens if I chose A instead of C. In the same light, I wanted to control my character to choose the best possible ending.
It was like playing a video game, but I was holding a book instead of a controller. If I made a wrong move, I could reset and try again.
These days, I sometimes end up wondering how nice it would be to have that ability in my life.
See, I pride myself on being a people person. I love meeting people and enjoying their company. I’m interested in knowing people’s stories, interests, and even problems. I learn from their stories and challenges, and I make it part of the values that guide my life.
I literally don’t expect anything in return apart from a genuine, meaningful, human connection.
I realized it’s an almost impossible goal these days. People usually create connections for utility. If you serve no purpose for them, it’s better to cut you off in their lives.
As a 35-year-old house-husband far away from some of the people I spent years building relationships with, I don’t offer much purpose for practically anyone.
I’m happy to have my family, but outside our home, I sometimes feel alone.
I don’t have work friends with who I can vent about my frustrations. The people I imagined who would pass my Front Porch Test are all back in the Philippines, and at this point, I don’t even know if they’d want to visit that hypothetical front porch in the future. Friends I’ve made here share very few interests with me apart from basketball, but we can’t even do that for now.
I began to wonder if there were choices back then that could have spared me from this outcome.
Should I have stuck to IT and computers when it was time to choose a college course?
Did staying too long in the dead-end job cause me to have limited employment opportunities?
Was I right in choosing the people I surrounded myself with?
If I were interested in other hobbies, would I be preoccupied with them instead of writing this long-ass blog?
Unfortunately, I would never know. There’s no reset button, no turning back of pages.
It’s frustrating not to know if there was a better outcome than this, and I’m not even sure if I’m still making the right decisions.
However, I feel like somehow, it’s preparing me for accepting the unknown.
The idea of death, space travel, global climate change, food shortage, and the like cause great anxiety in me. How many generations would come after my kid? Will their generation even reach an age where they would meet their grandkids? Can nature survive everything humans are doing? When will I lose all this extra weight?
More importantly, where do I go after I die?
These lingering questions make me curl up in myself because I don’t know how to handle not knowing the answers to them.
However, I’m alive. I have a healthy, happy family. We don’t grow hungry. We don’t owe anyone money.
Despite not knowing how I ended up here and if could have been a better outcome, I still have a lot to be thankful for.
Maybe all those "future me" problems will eventually end up being ok. Life would go on with or without me knowing the answers to these unknowns.
Living in the now is difficult because you need to constantly prepare for what's ahead (and you need to, really). Focusing on what I know and have instead of what I don't know or don't have help in giving me peace despite the feeling of loneliness that randomly envelops my being.
Life is unpredictable, and I guess that's the real adventure - not knowing what happens next.
How is your own adventure holding up?