There are times in everyone’s life when you come to the proverbial fork in the road that requires you to make a choice and, sometimes, the direction you take comes to you by chance through a random series of events.   One of the most meaningful changes in my life came as a result of one of those completely unplanned and unexpected events.

Before I get to the heart of the matter, a little background information is in order.  Despite the fact that no one in my family had ever gone to college, my mother always impressed on me the importance of an education and it was a given as far as she was concerned that I would go to college.  As I mentioned in “Simple Lessons”, my mother did go to a “business school” for a year; however, it really was a trade school to learn secretarial and clerical skills so she was not able to give me any practical advice when it came time for me to choose a college.  My high school guidance counselor recommended that I go to the newly expanded campus of a local state university that only a few years earlier had been a small teachers college and lacking any other information I took his advice.

I was unhappy at this local school for many reasons all of which came down to the feeling I had that this was somehow not the college experience I wanted.   It felt ordinary and bland, it was lackluster and uninspiring and it was close to home.   I felt that I wanted more.   Then the fork in the road came by chance.

One Saturday morning during my first spring semester, a fellow student that I barely knew told me that he was driving to Syracuse to see his girlfriend and would I like to go along for the ride.  Looking for any excuse to get away, I agreed to go with him without asking many questions nor was there much information given before or during the drive.  As we approached Syracuse, I was informed that his girlfriend lived with her parents and would I mind if he dropped me off at Syracuse University and pick me up on Sunday as he was sure that I could find a place to “crash” on the campus.  I was surprised but not all that upset since I was curious to see the campus.

I remembered that Carl, a high school acquaintance, had once mentioned that he was going to Syracuse University.  I went to the Student Center and inquired about Carl who was, in fact, a student and I was able to find his dorm room.   He was not at his dorm but his roommate told me that he was working at the Sigma Chi Fraternity so I went there to find him.  He was busy working in the kitchen and told me it would be alright for me to wait for him in the game room of the fraternity.  As I was waiting, I struck up a conversation with some of the fraternity brothers and before long they were inviting me to not only go out drinking with them that evening but also invited me to stay at the fraternity house.   I had a great weekend which proved to be a turning point for me.

By the end of that weekend, I knew that Syracuse University was the place for me and would give me the college experience I was looking for and not finding at my local school.  I was able to get into Syracuse University the following fall as a transfer student and soon was invited to be a pledge and, eventually, a brother of the Psi Psi Chapter of Sigma Chi.  For me, being at Syracuse was an awakening and opened a whole new world of experiences that, in many ways, changed my life.  I met and interacted with people from all over the world, from many walks of life and from every socio-economic level far beyond anything I would ever have experienced in the provincial confines of my home town.   Little did I know that years in the future all of my children would also graduate from Syracuse University and that I would have a life long relationship with the University.

Planning and paying attention to details aside, sometimes, the best choices you can make come upon you by chance.   The unexpected fork in the road may present some risk but taking that risk can lead to wonderful changes in your life.