My First Big Fork in the Road

Fork in the Road

My Real Memoir

Have you ever wondered who you’d be if at some point you’d taken a different fork in the road? Pursued a different career. Married a different person. Chosen not to pet that baby alligator.

My first big fork came in Fifth Grade. Mr. Taketa was a politely obsessive Japanese-born teacher. He kept a bell on his desk and made us memorize a series of Pavlovian dings: One bell = nap time, two bells = announcements, three bells = Math.

But four bells meant Art, and this was when Mr. Taketa’s dweebish demeanor wilted and his passion bloomed. Art had clearly been his fork in the road, the path he regretted not having taken. Perhaps his parents had insisted he pursue something sensible, like teaching rude American fifth graders how to respond to bells. At any rate, that spring Mr. Taketa announced that he and his wife were returning to Japan…

And they wanted to take me with them!

The Taketas were childless. But more than that, after raving about my doodles and dinosaur-festooned notebook covers, Mr. T had concluded that I was a burgeoning artistic genius. So he asked my parents for permission to alter my life forever.

He would enroll me in art school in Tokyo, he said, paying all costs while I lived with his well-to-do family. And then, after I’d completed my graduate art degree, they would finance my brilliant career!

My parents were stunned. Apart from several demanding cats, I was their only child. “And yet, if this is what you were born to do, honey…” I did draw incessantly, but then I also read and told stories incessantly. They agonized over it, and then tearfully told me, “If this is what you want to do, we’ll love you from afar and visit you whenever we can.”

I fantasized about my new life: I’d eat tempura shrimp and have a beautiful Japanese girlfriend with perfect eggshell skin. But wait—I’d have to learn Japanese, right? Hmmm. And did they serve tempura hamburgers there? And what about those bronze-skinned California girls…?

I finally said no.

Alternate Reality MeWho would I be today if I’d said yes? Is there an alternate universe where I did? Perhaps even now alternate-reality-me Mich Timori is imagining the life he’d have if he hadn’t moved to Japan when he faced…

His big fork (chopsticks?) in the road.

My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

70 Responses to My First Big Fork in the Road

  1. I recently read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, which addresses the roads not taken–and an alternate universe.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Webb Blogs says:

    Wow now thats a big fork! Do you mind if I ask, are you happy with the choice you made?
    My fork was when I was 19. My crush since I was 14 finally returned the feelings and asked me to move out of state and start a life with him. I was extremely happy. However, I never boarded the plane because I got scared and nervous. I don’t regret that decision but I do wonder “what if”.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Quite an interesting read.
    The choices you made were essential, I think.
    I’m 21 & have changed my professional core 2 times.
    Still, I’m confused.
    I think it’ll take years for me to realize about that fork.
    Do you think that being confused is essential sometimes?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jamfayle says:

    We’re glad you said no. That hamburger thing would have made my mind up too.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. francisashis says:

    Anyways my dear Mitch,it’s confusing to me .So I refrain from a lengthy comment.Thanks a lot for sharing.Take care.🌹😊🙏

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Forks had an evolution you know. It was described in one of Bill Bryson’s wonderful books, I think about life at home. With more than four prongs, forks where tearing up mouths. Not so with four prongs. And so we have the modern fork, not with two prongs like the idiom, but, with four.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. That’s were tearing up mouths, of course. Oh, those faulty edits!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mark Johnson says:

    Wow. Fascinating. That is a giant fork … maybe even a pitchfork! Your fifth grade teacher sounds like a remarkable guy. You’re pretty remarkable too, Mitch. I’m glad you are writing about this. From my experience, nothing about life–the potential paths and obstacles–is linear. Your story confirms that!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Gail Perry says:

    We came across a real fork in the road just outside some small town in Colorado many, many moons ago. It resulted in a flat tire. I waited patiently by the car while my gallant husband trudged back to the service station we had just left to call AAA … before the cell phone. A guy on a motorcycle pulled up behind us. More than a little frightened I was. You see, he had noticed somehow through all the stuff I had taken out of the trunk, that universal fish symbol on the back of the car. By the time hubby returned, the tire had been changed and the trunk repacked and I was leaning on the back of the car with some strange guy in a leather jacket. We stayed in touch for several years. The “fish” community is the most amazing thing. ✝️ 🇨🇦

    Liked by 3 people

  10. theburningheart says:

    An old teacher of mine used to say that a seed will grow up to be the as the tree that it come from, or as the saying goes: “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Umm, I’m still stuck at the beginning: “One bell = nap time.” For fifth graders???

    Liked by 2 people

  12. This reminds me about my life a few years ago. I was battling getting into medical school and it was tough, tiring and frustrating. I accepted my fate that I wasn’t lucky like my peers. My mom talked me back to face life and pursue another degree. Now, I have learnt, grown, developed better than some people at medical college.

    And then, I thought about it, how would my life have been when I got that chance to pursue that career?
    I don’t regret the path that I am in now.

    I can totally relate!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. What an amazing story! And impressive of your parents to leave the decision up to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Yernasia Quorelios says:

    💜 Yes; yet where I AM is where I Wanna Be EveryOne…sure, EveryOne and EveryThing Prior Contributed; but now I Remember WHO!!! and What I AM


    Liked by 1 person

  15. Scott says:

    Wonderful story! 🙂

    We make plans, and God laughs anyway. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Yes, I ponder this question frequently. Now that I’m 61 and have the benefit of hindsight and accumulated semi-wisdom, the outcomes of my younger self’s choices seem obvious. Some life-changing choices were made for me by my parents, and it’s those that invite a greater measure of curiosity in midlife. I’m impressed at your parents’ respect for and confidence in your decision-making ability. Thanks for an enjoyable read, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. K.L. Hale says:

    I’ve had some forks (not chopsticks ;); I’ve turned down some opportunities that would have led to other continents. I think at 5th grade, my Superintendent Dad probably would’ve shipped my twin and I to Asia in a heartbeat. I love your life stories, Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow, Mitch, that was fascinating. That’s a big fork, but honestly, there are forks and forks and forks. Even small choices can change the trajectory of our lives. But what a story you have to tell. It would be fun to write the other choice in a short story. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Rocky says:

    I guess we all wonder where we would be if we had made different decisions along the way. Or our parents had made different choices.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. badfinger20 (Max) says:

    Wow…what an adventure that would have been.

    I had an aunt and uncle with three girls and my mom was divorced in the mid seventies. I was around 6 and my uncle wanted to adopt me legally and take me home…of course my mom frowned on that idea… but it would have changed my life. I would be close to them until they passed away.

    What happened to you is much more dramatic. Thanks Mitch…I thought my story was unique…I see not!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I like to think there are LOADS of alternate universes and one Mitch DID go to Japan, speaks fluent Japanese and got a beautiful “eggshell-skinned” girlfriend. I’m guessing that version missed his parents, his home and American burgers a lot, but maybe he grew to love sushi and the amazing Japanese diet we all hear so much about? I wonder what that Mitch’s art would have become? Do you still draw?

    Liked by 1 person

  22. revruss1220 says:

    Great story! I’ve had a couple of those along the way, too, but decided the angst involved in asking, “What if? really isn’t worth the wear and tear on my spirit. I have to go with the notion that I am – somehow – exactly where God wants me today.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Bonnie Rae says:

    Love this photo !! I may have to re-create it someday. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Wow, as a parent I don’t know if I could have allowed my son the option. He’s an only child as well. Those alternative universes are so intriguing…but I like to think I am exactly where I need to be in this universe. Interesting read! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  25. When in doubt, I consult Aslan, and He said “No one is ever allowed to know what WOULD have happened.” Interesting thought, though.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Was there one main reason you stayed in the States? I’m guessing it was the California girls!

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Life is always about choices we make. I hope you make a movie of your fork and show both parts of your life in it. The present and the unknown(what would have been). I am sure everybody will love to watch it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  28. I’m impressed that your parents permitted you the opportunity to choose. That experience alone demonstrates their trust in your ability to wrestle through the pros and cons and come to a fifth grader’s wise conclusion–what a way to nurture confidence in a child.

    I would not have offered that decision-making power to my children in 5th grade. I can hear the adamant response of my younger self. But… with the sage wisdom that comes by observation over the generations, your story causes the current me (a great-grandmother) to reflect and go hmmm. How much confidence was unintentionally eroded by my parenting style?

    It’s a good thing that God has grace for that too! Thanks for sharing your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. cigarman501 says:

    Actually, tempura hamburgers sound pretty good but then I come from a place that worships deep-fried mac and cheese.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Whenever I should ponder over the “what if’s”– especially from my early life– I have to dismiss them, since my eventual choice of meeting my wife turned out to be the best path. (Though it would’ve been nice not to have partied like in “Animal House” and flunked out of college. No, I take that back. That was a fun adventure in my youth.)

    Liked by 1 person

  31. I sometimes wonder if I might be happier if I had taken a different fork.  Then I observe that who I am emerges from a lifetime of choices and experiences.  The possibly happier “I” would another (tho somewhat similar) person, not the actual me.

    In Rhinebeck NY there was (and probably still is) an intersection where the roads form a Y shape, with a small park where the arms of the Y meet.  In the middle of the park there was a sculpture: a humongous steel fork, anchored by tines stuck into the ground.  U can guess what the plaque with the sculpture’s title said.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Jennie says:

    I love this story!

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Pingback: My First Girlfriend | Mitch Teemley

  34. petespringerauthor says:

    Wow! Incredible story, Mitch! That must have been a tough call. At 62, I’ve lived an excellent life. Do I have any regrets? Yes, but I have yet to meet the person that says they have none. I’m not sure I’d believe them anyway if they said they didn’t. My biggest regret centers around not being more of a risk-taker when I was younger. I don’t mean daring, stupid stuff—I did my share of that.🤣 I’m referring to public speaking and other types of getting out of your comfort zone moments. I outgrew that a long time ago when I became a teacher. It doesn’t mean I get everything I go after now, but it’s not going to be because I fail to give myself a chance. The clock is ticking, and I’m not messing around waiting for “the perfect time.”

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Pingback: The Year I Began to Figure Out Who I Was | Mitch Teemley

  36. Pingback: How I Launched My Career (at Age 12) | Mitch Teemley

  37. Pingback: The Year I Fell in Love With Music | Mitch Teemley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s