Life, Choice and Creating Your Own Path

Life is all about choices. We’ve heard that phrase a million times, so it’s not like I’m telling you something that you don’t know.

But, I believe that there is a caveat to that.

I have heard others wax poetic about what they “have” to do in life – their “path” as they call it. I know little girls that have their wholes lives planned by the time they’re 12: graduate high school at the top of their class, graduate from a prestigious college and then law school, get married, have 2.5 children, a dog, a house with a white picket fence and live happily ever after. I know others who feel like they have to live other’s lives in order for them to be happy: graduate from their parent’s alma mater, go into the family business, marry the girl next door, have 2.5 children, blah, blah, blah.

I don’t know if they were never told, or they never listened, but … THERE’S A WHOLE WORLD OF CHOICES OUT THERE!

Most people are familiar with the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. On a similar, but more modern vein, comes a quote from Jay-Z’s recent memoir, Decoded. In decoding the lyrics for the song, Renegade, Jay states that the line in the lyric – I drove by the fork in the road and went straight – refers to the fact that, when “forced into a f@&#ked up choice where you lose either way, choose your own path.” While simplistic and almost common sense when you truly think about, I think that this is sometimes one of the hardest lessons learned.

I never did anything that conformed to the typical “standards” of society. I bucked convention…not necessarily on purpose, but simply because of the circumstances of my life. Remember the little 12 year old girl at the beginning of this post?  The little girl who wrote list after list and had notebooks filled with hopes, dreams, and goals for what she wanted to accomplish, who she wanted to be, and what she was going to do? 

That little girl was me.

I had dreams and plans. I was directing my life down a path where I would eventually graduate high school in the top 10% of my class. I was going to graduate from a top college, then law school, where, once again, I would graduate at the top of my class. I would be recruited by a major law firm where I would work for 7 – 10 years, quickly rising on the partner track. I would meet the man of my dreams, we would get married in a lavish garden ceremony, with the most beautiful dress ever created (which I would draw over and over again in those aforementioned notebooks) and we would have 2.5 children, a dog, and a large Dutch colonial house with (gasp!) a white picket fence.

As fate would have it, as is always the case, things did not quite go as planned.

Through a multitude of circumstances, I ended up pregnant at 14, dropping out of high school, getting my GED at 17, while also raising a toddler, getting married at 18 in a civic ceremony, having three more children and, after 10 years and three different schools, attaining my bachelor’s degree at the age of 32. Oh, and I did all of this while also building my career. I have worked hard over the years and have dedicated myself to my craft. Some would say I was lucky, some would say it was fate and in the cards all along, but I say that it was my perseverance, attitude, and desire to tell all the naysayers, “F you!”

All told, I consider myself very successful. Even given my circumstances, I chose to dig, climb, kick and scream, and pull myself out of what could have become a much different fate. Instead of succumbing to what appeared to be my pre-destined future, I chose to create a much different path. A path, not less traveled, but not traveled at all, because I created the map, planned the route, and then navigated the course.

I have learned that life is what you make it.

While life is about choices – some good, some not so good, and some just fate’s way of letting you know that something greater than you exists in this world – life is even more about how you respond to those choices. You can either let life knock you off the horse and then kick you while you’re down and choose to stay off that horse for good, or you can choose to get back off that horse, and ride the shit out of it!

What will you choose?

About the Author

Rachel Salley

Rachel Salley is an HR Consultant in the Tampa Bay, FL area. For the past 15 years, she has worked with companies to develop and implement talent acquisition and talent management best practices. Rachel fits in time with her husband, four kids, and a lovable dog who swears she’s a cat, while also blogging on Musing From the Career Anarchist. You can connect with Rachel on Twitter as @RachelSalley and on LinkedIn.



Great post, thanks for your sharing your story. I love to hear about others success stories!

I had that vision when I was younger too, although mine ended after getting a college degree and I wanted to have babies and be a stay at home Mom. So funny where life takes you. While I still do want children at some point, I can’t imagine having stopped there and not experienced everything I have so far and everything I will continue to experience.

Don’t sell yourself short in life!


Great post and perspective – thank you for taking the time to write and share your story! We do have choices. It’s all about choices.

Tamkara Adun

Very Gutsy post.

I love your honesty and willingness to share.
Life is indeed not about what happens to you but how you respond to events as they occur.
Your post, reminds me of a quote that says every “seeming” disappointment has within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

Its so great that you did not live down to the low expectations of people and society. This just goes to show that in life, it’s really not over until you give up!
Your story is indeed a very refreshing comeback story and I loved it..loved it…loved it!!!!

Jennifer Payne

Kudos to you Rachel for making the best of the situation in which you found yourself. There are many people who simply give up when things don’t go as planned…which obviously you did not. Thank you for sharing and reminding us all that we can accomplish whatever it is we want to do, regardless of our circumstances, and that there are more than just the obvious choices available. An inspirational post!

Jay Kuhns

Great post Rachel. Thank you for sharing your story in such a poignant way. Very inspirational! You’re a great example of the talent in Tampa Bay – well done.


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