Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? This Atlas Obscura article was a nice throwback for me, and a peek into the creative process of one of the authors. Both the designer and writer in me geeked out over those hand drawn story maps.

My first CYOA book was a gift from my aunt; she bought it at a yard sale. It was this one: Track of the Bear. I remember little of the plot. There were polar bears, and several endings where you died. I loved it.

I don’t know that I read many CYOA books. Maybe they were a couple years before my time. The year the original series ceased publication was the same year my family bought our first PC. My interests shifted. But those books served as a map for the non-linear playground of the Internet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about forking paths during the past few weeks because of my own projects. One is a web app, and the other is another experimental short story. I spent last weekend mapping their stories and watching them grow like trees. I’ll share more about both soon.

Looking at all these maps, I also saw a model of my life. I see it less like a linear story and more like a tree. Forks and branches, most of which trace back to simple choices. A single email becomes a cross-country move to California. A phone call eliminates one career path and sets another in motion. A fateful magazine subscription alters innumerable branches. We are a summation of choices, both the choices we make, and the choices made by others.

But we don’t get to turn back and follow the prompt to a different page. As much as I wonder what those other branches would have looked like, this is my branch now. We can only choose what to do with the next minute given to us.

Choose well. I hear there are polar bears.