From the time we are born to when we begin making our own decisions, our parents make most of our choices for us.
Once we reach the point in our lives where we begin making our own decisions, we begin reaching forks in the road or in other words life altering decisions. Do I make this choice or make that choice? I am not talking about small, everyday decisions such as will I have a burrito for lunch or will I opt for pizza or will I take a bus or catch a cab. However, even events as small and insignificant as these could have an impact on a person's life if they happened to meet someone who was to influence them as a result of their choice or were involved in a life altering accident due to taking the cab instead of the bus.
I'm talking about major, life changing decisions.
As an example, in my twenties I was working in New Guinea in the truck and automotive repair business and made the acquaintance of the first engineer from a freighter in port for a few days. We were introduced at a local business club and struck up a friendship. We agreed to meet again the next night where over a beer, he asked me if I had any seagoing experience. As I had sailed for a good part of my life, I said I had. He then advised me he was looking for a third engineer for his ship as the current engineer had been stricken with an illness and had to be flown home.
He said with my mechanical and seagoing experience I fit the bill and offered me the job. At that time, I was thinking about heading back to New Zealand having been away for almost two years. He gave me 24 hours to consider his offer. I put a great deal of thought into it and though it was a great opportunity I finally declined. I consider that a major fork in the road and sometimes wonder where I would be today had I accepted the job offer.
Most people have several of these decisions to make in their lives, many do not. I wonder if this is what is meant by fate. Are we all fated to decide a certain way when these forks appear? Would a person's lifespan be changed because of the decision to take one fork or the other?
There are many examples of the 'fork in the road" metaphor in literature. The following are a few examples.
There is a common motif in Russian folk tales, where a Russian knight comes to a fork in the road and sees a sign with an inscription that reads: "If you ride to the left, you will lose your horse, if you ride to the right, you will lose your head".
The following phrase appears in the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 21:19–23 NRSV): Mortal, mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to come; both of them shall issue from the same land. And make a signpost, make it for a fork in the road leading to a city; mark out the road for the sword to come to Rabbah of the Ammonites or to Judah and to Jerusalem the fortified.
A fork in the road is mused upon by Robert Frost in his poem "The Road Not Taken", which begins, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood..."
Malapropist extraordinary Yogi Berra's saying "When you come to a fork in the road, take it" made the title of his book "When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!: Inspiration and Wisdom From One of Baseball's Greatest Heroes".
It is also depicted in the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a
Cheshire cat in the tree.
The album cover of A Nice Pair includes a literal depiction of a fork in the road, a visual pun on the expression.