Why You Have 43 More Choices That Matter in Life (or Not)

“Life is the sum of all your choices.” ~Albert Camus

Ever wondered what might have been?

Ever thought about where and who you’d be if only you’d done something differently, gone somewhere else, chosen something or someone else?

Probably so, if you’re like most.

But have you ever imagined where you might go and what you might still become, with the choices you yet have left?

My friends and I were hanging out not too long ago, before I moved away from them (totally escaping their awesome grasp) to start a new life of sorts in this surface-of-sun-like heat of Austin. (I’m not used to it yet, possibly because I’m convinced one of these days I’ll walk outside and spontaneously combust.)

Anyway, we were doing what we often do—making fun of the university we went to, when someone asked where else I could have gone. What other schools could I have chosen instead?

The question pretty much weirded me out right away.

I mean, it’s a reasonable question, I guess—except for the fact that I had never thought about it before. It’s like I had completely forgotten how close I was to having a very different life.

It seems I had only ever thought of whether I should have gone to college at all—not whether I should have gone somewhere else. For this odd reason it was a little unsettling (the next day, when I actually had the time to consider it).

It isn’t simply a question of the pros and cons of the different places I turned down and the one I ultimately chose, but of what my life would be now if I had done so.

Where would I be?

What would I be?

Who would I be?

And I didn’t like it. I realized the strange irony of it—sitting there joking with my friends about the school we went to.

The thing is, we wouldn’t know each other if not for that school and our time spent there. I wouldn’t know any of the people I now call my best friends. I wouldn’t know any of the people I now hang out with. I wouldn’t have met the first girl I loved.

I wouldn’t have experienced any of the things that ultimately led me to depression, which forced me to change myself, and my life, for the better.

And I definitely wouldn’t be sharing my often strange thoughts and stories online for the world to see, as I’m doing now here, and usually do on my website.

And then, of course, you wouldn’t be sitting here reading it.

I don’t know where I’d be, or what I’d be, or who I’d be. And most of all, I don’t like the thought of it.

What I realized that day is this: If given the opportunity I definitely might go back and change my choice, but I would not undo now what I did then.

Because how could I?

What do I have now that I do not in some way owe to that decision?

For better or worse I am that decision now. I am the effect of that choice. I am the growth of the seed planted that day.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But that decision was not the only decision that made me, of course. I couldn’t list the many that did if I had infinite time to do it (and I’m pretty sure none of us do).

I am not simply that decision. I am all of my decisions, every single one—the countless I chose, and the countless I let others choose for me through my indifference, laziness, or weakness.

How many do I have left?

How many decisions must I still make until my time has expired or my options are taken from me? How many more crossroads will I approach in life like the one I did on that day in my senior year of high school, when I chose a school simply because it was closest, cheapest, and most prestigious?

How many opportunities to change my life really remain?

1? 20? 43?

I don’t know, obviously. My superpowers are pretty much limited to guessing which elevator door will open in lobbies. (True story, though I’m pretty freakin’ sure it wouldn’t make for the most thrilling comic book.)

Some say that every moment is a choice. Others say every day. Many, of course, just wait until the obvious choices come to them, which is a choice in itself.

I don’t know if any of those are right. I think that with anything you may want in life, or any change you might make, there exists a certain time when it’s time—an opportunity presents itself, and it’s clear that if it’s to happen at all, it happens now.

Or never.

Every day may be a choice, but not every choice comes with an opportunity.

That day in high school when I chose my college, it was both my choice and my opportunity—one that led me to becoming the man I am today.

The boy who wants to be an astronaut will have a similar choice and opportunity.

One is forever. The other is not.

Though he wakes up every day with the choice to try, he will not always wake up with the opportunity. There aren’t many 80-year-olds in space, or people transferring jobs from McDonald’s to NASA.

His choice is forever. His opportunity is not.

If he’s to become what he dreams, he must make that choice when the opportunity is his—when it’s his own, when it’s his time—or he loses the ability to achieve it at all.

I think we do have a certain finite number of choices left that can affect us throughout our lifetime—that can re-make us, change us, and improve us. We will only receive so many new opportunities in life.

Maybe it’s a handful. Maybe it’s much more. Maybe, though, there’s just one choice left.

You just don’t know.

However many decisions remain in our lives, we better make the most of them, right? We better be prepared for them. We better be ready—not only to make the decision, but to see it through.

Every day when we neglect the decision is one less where the opportunity will remain.

Life is the sum of our choices. If our opportunities are short-lived, as they are, then there are but few choices left that may change us forever. That will be to you what my college was to me.

What will you do with those choices? Are you ready for them?

Photo by d u y g u

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About Adam Alvarado

Adam Alvarado is the founder of The Last Broken Home, where he writes about how the effects of our childhood and circumstances (our broken homes) create the messed up lives we lead, and how to change it. You can be his bff on Facebook or stalk him on Twitter. He won’t call the police.

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  • Lv2terp

    This is a great post, with a wonderful message! I enjoy the humor you infuse into your story 🙂 Thank you for sharing your insight!!

  • The point about the little boy wanting to join NASA, introduces a limited view. It is up to each person to use his or her unlimited amount of choices to place himself/herself in a position where opportunities are in abundance or at the very least, more likely to arise. 

    Want to know the difference between a boy who grows up to become that 80 year-old astronaut or golf legend or track star, etc. and a boy who grows up wanting to do become one of those things but instead becomes an 80 year-old line cook at McDonald’s who wishes that he was in outer space or winning a medal? The difference is the astronaut made a choice to persevere, and put himself in front of opportunity, wherever it was, so that he could become what he wanted to become.

  • Kiki Bear

    Fantastic post!  I love the distinction between the choices and the opportunities—to me it reinforces the idea that we always need to keep our eyes open for new, wonderful opportunities that we could act upon. 

  • Thanks.  I enjoy my humor too, haha.  Glad you like the article!

  • Oh absolutely. But that choice was made early in life, right?  It was made when the opportunity still existed.  Should he wait on that choice (which is a choice in itself) that opportunity may no longer exist.  The reality is…track stars win Golds in their 20s and sometimes 30s.  Almost positive I haven’t seen an 80-year-old win one yet. And so, self-help dogma aside, we have the choice to do whatever we want at ANY point of our life, but not necessarily the opportunity.

    Thanks for reading Nicole.

  • Thanks Kiki!  I still check underneath my bed for monsters, and of course, opportunities, haha.  Always on the look out!

  • Priya Mani

    Such a compelling post! You made me pause and reflect on my own life, not to mourn the wasted chances but to realize the immensity of the future that lay potent in my ‘now’! Thank you very much!

  • Wow. Thanks Priya!  Really means a lot!

  • Nikki Viv

    Your words really hit home, as I am at a crossroads in my life, getting ready to embark on a new journey to…. Austin, Texas! Two year ago I had an amazing opportunity to move from Arizona to Michigan to check out a new place, get on my feet and go back to school. While it has been an interesting adventure, filled with many lessons, my heart has always been in Texas.
    About a month ago the universe threw a wrench in my plan and I was forced to make a decision.. A choice.. I decided that I am taking the leap and heading to Austin. Just me, my dog, and a car full of memories. Thankfully, i have an angel of a friend who is letting me crash on her couch until i can find a job and get settled in school. The universe has a funny way of conspiring in our favor if we just read the signs correctly.

    Anyway, thank you for your inspiring post it was just what I needed to read.

    Here I come… Ready.. Or not!!


  • Alixandrea Corvyn

    It’s funny you should write about thinking on where you’d be if you’d gone to a different college.  I often wonder the same thing, having changed tack very slightly between high school and college, then gone on several different courses before ending up where I am now.  I have to say I prefer the view from the ‘alternate reality’ where I went to a university far away from my home town and did a degree rather than the lower grade course I did!  I have to keep reminding myself that I’m just projecting the worst of my current situation onto it, while projecting the best of my possible future onto my alternate reality…
    But thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for reminding me that I have opportunities and choices going forward that could make my best possible future happen in my current reality, rather than the alternate universe.  I need to be reminded of this on a regular basis and so have bookmarked this article to come back to often!

  • Thanks Alixandrea (love the unique spelling btw!).  And you’re absolutely right.  Think about what could have been isn’t nearly as useful as preparing for what might still be…

  • Haha.  Thanks Nikki.  My heart is still back home east.  But I love what I’m doing now, and it sounds like you will too.  I’m sure your dog, though, will be awesomely happy either way!

  • Debra

    “The fullness of time” – being the only right time – when something can effectly occur – how do you know it’s your “fullness of time” – you only KNOW it when you are in it…nice article!

  • Chickoryhillcrone

    I’ve often wondered about the choices, as you suggest.  Had I chosen differently I wouldn’t have had the wonderful opportunities that made me who I am – and I like me now.  My children are great, my bucket list is done, my health is good.  I’m in a good place in life, although it is winding down and that makes me sad sometimes.  Who knows who I’d have become otherwise. I also became expert at making lemonade.

  • Such wisdom from such a young man. That’s what happens when you are present in your life and take the time to reflect. You are so right that that although choices are limitless, opportunities are not. The sooner people realize this, the sooner they can start paying more attention to what opportunities are still left to be had so that they choose purposfully.

    I too, would not change decisions I have made because I love where I am today. I’m not perfect and neither has my life been perfect but I am who I am because of it. And I value who I am. Thanks for a wonderful post!

  • I found this a very thought provoking post. Like Kiki Bear, I Ilike that separation between choice and opportunity. You can choose to be content with an aspect of your life or choose to do something different by looking for new opportunities. I guess that all too often, reaching out for a new opportunity means losing something else and that’s where I stall. I’m aware that I am overly cautious in taking up opportunities since I value so many things in my life and don’t want to lose them. Its not an excuse to let anyone else make my decisions though, nor to leave things untl its too late to take the opportunity. I’ll be thinking about this for some time…. Many thanks! 

  • paul

    “His choice is forever. His opportunity is not.”

    …brilliant….simple, but definitely not simplistic

  • Guest

    I needed to read this today and right now!! Thank you!! This is so perfect. I’m glad you made the choice to write this and I’m glad I made the choice to read it, haha.

  • budea

    pls..give me ten matter with life..

  • budea
  • Dave

    We all now have the Opportunity to SHARE this!!