Robert Frost famously wrote, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler.” But what if we could travel both? It’s fascinating to think about how your life might be different if you’d made different decisions. It’s mind-blowing to think about how each individual decision has shaped you and changed you into the person you are. But it’s also scary to think about all the possibilities you could have missed out on. What if the other decisions you made had better outcomes? What if you were only one different decision away from making all your dreams come true? How would you handle that if you knew?
There have been so many books, movies, tv shows, etc. that deal with this concept because it’s so intriguing and the possibilities are endless. Personally, I could spend hours dissecting my choices and thinking about where they could have led. So as not to drive myself crazy thinking of my OWN “what ifs,” I’ve put together a quick list of books, movie, and a musical that examine the infinite possibilities of split paths.
1. Just Like Fate by Suzanne Young and Cat Patrick
*Read this for free on Riveted through May 1st!*
Caroline is at a crossroads. Her grandmother is sick and, like the rest of her family, Caroline’s been at Gram’s beside since her stroke. With the pressure building, all Caroline wants to do is escape—both her family and the reality of Gram’s failing health. So when Caroline’s best friend offers to take her to a party one fateful Friday night, she must choose: stay by Gram’s side, or go to the party for a few hours.
The consequences of this one decision will split Caroline’s fate into two separate paths—and she is about to live them both.
2. If/Then the Musical
Elizabeth is newly divorced and moves to New York City for a fresh start. She meets up with her friends Kate and Lucas at the park and they each have suggestions for her: Kate advises her to start going by “Liz” and try to have new and exciting experiences. Lucas says she should go by “Beth” and focus on professional networking. Whose advice will Elizabeth take? The audience gets to see both, as both “Liz” and “Beth” leave the pursue their own paths. Listen to the original cast recording—Elizabeth was played by Idina Menzel!
3. The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. When Josh’s family gets a free AOL CD in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. And they’re looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.
By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right—and wrong—in the present.
4. Sliding Doors the movie
This drama starring Gwyneth Paltrow follows Helen Quilley, who had just been fired from her job. As she leaves her office building, she drops her earring in the elevator and a man picks it up for her. She rushes to catch a train and her narrative splits: in one reality, she just makes the train and in the other, she misses it. The results of that one moment will take her life in dramatically different directions.
5. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.
However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.