24 Stories About Small Decisions Changing People's Entire Lives That Will Convince You The Butterfly Effect Is Real
Turns out, you should always say yes to going to the pub.
Listen, I'm not one to believe in fate or things happening for a reason. I'm what the kids call an ~existentialist~.
But...I recently saw a Reddit thread where abayomi02 asked, "What's one mistake or decision you made that completely altered the course of your life?" And y'all...there were some pretty wild examples.
Here are some of my favorite "mistakes/decisions" people made that completely changed their lives!
1. Forgot hamburger buns:
"When my dad died, I was really depressed and was without a job for over a year. I applied at a few different places and heard nothing back. One day I was headed to a barbecue at a friend's house and stopped at the store first. We got everything we needed and went out to the car, but then I realized we'd forgotten hamburger buns.
"I went back in the store and was walking down the frozen-food aisle when I ran into an old coworker who happened to be a manager at one of the places I'd applied to months prior. I chatted it up with him for a little bit, and three days later I got a call out of the blue to come in for an interview at his company.
"I've now been with the company for 18 years, all because of that chance encounter in the frozen-food aisle."
2. Went out for drinks:
"A buddy of mine called me up one day to tell me he and his toxic, controlling girlfriend had broken up, and he wanted to celebrate with a few drinks. At the time, I was living a very antisocial lifestyle and almost said no, but something that day told me I needed to get out of the house. So I agreed.
"Turns out, that was the night I met my future wife. When we were reminiscing about that night, my wife said she also almost declined going out."
3. Went to the pub:
"I was on a backpacking trip around Europe. At a hostel in Belfast, this Australian guy who was in the same dorm I was in asked if anyone wanted to join him for a drink. A New Zealander and I tagged along. We had an absolutely epic night in what was then still a city under martial law. Next day, we all went in different directions, but I kept in contact with the Australian.
"At some stage months later, he mentioned that I should come and visit him in Australia. About six months later, I did. I had such a fantastic time traveling around Australia that I applied for a residency permit.
"Thirty years later, I'm still here. It's been absolutely great, but none of that would have happened if I hadn't said yes to a few beers all the way back in the '80s."
4. Flunked out of a class:
"I failed an unfailable class at university because I was so sure it was unfailable, I didn’t study at all. I had to retake the class, and in a group project, I was put on a team with this girl.
"I married her last summer."
5. Went to see the Eiffel Tower:
"My then-girlfriend and I were traveling from New Zealand to see my family back home in Sweden. We both decided to spend a bit more money to fly back through Paris instead of Amsterdam because we wanted to see the Eiffel Tower. It cost us maybe an extra $50, and we got to see it on the landing and then takeoff, but we never actually set foot in Paris because we were poor students.
"When we landed, we turned on our phones and noticed that we had about 50 missed calls from our travel agent, which was odd. When we called her, she sounded super relieved and out of breath. She told us the flight she originally suggested to us (from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur) was shot down over Ukraine."
6. Went to a bar:
"Another 'said yes to going to the pub' tale...
"In 1991, I was in Edinburgh walking home, and a friend from my previous job pulled up in his old yellow mini and said he was off to meet another friend from the same job. The other guy was in town with one of his pals to discuss a game (we were all RPG gamers), and I had nothing better to do, so I tagged along.
"Long story short, we started an RPG company and got bought by Wizards of the Coast, traveled the world, and then got our game back when they canned RPGs. Last year (about 20 years later), we did a Kickstarter that raised well over $100,000.
"The moral of this story is that if someone asks you if you want to go to the pub, the answer is yes."
7. Had a surprise pregnancy:
"My wonderful 2-year-old daughter was not planned. But thanks to her, I decided to have a vasectomy. I had always had one slightly enlarged testicle due to a mountain biking accident 10 years prior.
"My urologist had it biopsied because it didn't look right. Turns out I'd had testicular cancer for an impossible-to-determine period of time. Four rounds of chemo later and I'm perfectly fine. Had I not had my daughter, I would probably have had much worse results years later when I finally discovered the cancer.
"So my daughter technically saved my life, which is knowledge I'm sure she'll use with great glee during her teenage years when I'm trying to punish her."
8. Decided to volunteer at the Olympics:
"In 2003 I was finishing university and wondering what to do with my life next. One particular evening, I was feeling a deep kind of existential depression, so I went online to distract myself. Maybe I could go traveling? Maybe I could find a job to apply for? Who knew? I just needed something as an anchor to work toward.
"I landed on the page for the 2004 Athens Olympics and decided to give myself a postgraduation goal to work toward. I planned on buying tickets to a couple of events, and then I saw a Volunteer section, so I clicked on that and filled in the details.
"Well, day one of volunteering, I met the man who would go on to become my husband. I ended up moving to Greece, learning a new language, and getting married. Ten years in, I'm still happily married with two awesome kids, all because I felt shitty one evening and decided to surf the internet."
9. Went to a concert:
"It was 1994, and I was working in a warehouse with my brother's best friend. He told me about a concert that night that he and his girlfriend were going to and asked if I wanted to go. My brother was supposed to go, but he'd backed out the night before. They had four tickets: one each for him and his girlfriend, one for my brother, and one for a girl his girlfriend worked with.
"That girl and I have been together for 26 years now."
10. Picked up a call:
"The beginning of my biggest life change was when my sister's boyfriend called and asked me to pick up my nieces from the hospital. He refused to say why she was in the hospital, so I went, even though my sister herself hadn't spoken to me in over a year and had skipped my wedding. It turned out that she was in labor, although no one (allegedly including her) knew she was pregnant. I brought my nieces home, and two weeks later my sister picked up the younger of the two, leaving me with a 5-year-old indefinitely.
"My husband and I had only gotten married a month before my niece came to live with us, and two months before that, I'd had my tubes tied because my husband and I were certain we didn't want children.
"After a lot of drama, I wound up getting a lawyer and gaining custody of my niece. She's lived with my husband and me for four years now and is a completely different person from the little girl I picked up at the hospital. She's really come out of her shell and very clearly feels safe and secure with us. As for my husband and me, I'm now looking at having my procedure reversed. I hadn't wanted children because I'd spent my entire life caring for my siblings, but now that I have a kid, I'm realizing it's a lot more rewarding raising a child as an adult.
"My life changed irreversibly when I picked up the phone four years ago. There's not a single thing I would change about it, though. I love that kid."
11. Got in a fight with their boss:
"I quit my job without a plan and ended up panic applying at every shitty little place in town. I got a job at a coffee shop where I met the love of my life. We supported each other through going back to school, got careers, and then got married and had two amazing little girls. All because I got in a fight with my boss and walked out."
12. Missed the train:
"When I was 27, I missed my usual train to work and had to wait another 30 minutes. I got to talking to a random guy who turned out to be a doctor. He noticed a dark patch under my nail and recommended I go get it checked out. It turned out to be skin cancer — I thought it was a bruise, and probably wouldn't have gone to the doctor over it."
13. Sat next to a random kid:
"My freshman year, I asked some kid in the college dorm's cafeteria if I could sit at his table because all the others were full. We started talking, and he mentioned his tuition was free because his dad was in the military. I was like, 'Wait...my dad is military and I’m paying?'
"He said it was because his dad is now disabled. Well, it turns out some of my dad's ailments from military service qualify him as disabled, and guess who got free college after that? My sister did too!
"They hide this information on the website pretty well, and they DEFINITELY don’t tell veterans about the program for their dependents, so my family never would have known if I hadn’t sat down with some random guy. Thanks, guy!"
14. Took a videography class:
"I took videography as an elective in middle school instead of photography, like my sister. Throughout high school, I won numerous student filmmaking awards, made tons of friends I never would have met had I not joined those classes, developed a super-useful skill, and got paying jobs throughout high school because of my skill set. I even got hired at my current job because of my video skills."
15. Turned on an old Xbox:
"Right after high school, I didn't go to college or get a job. I stayed inside my parents' house for maybe a year and completely isolated myself from the world due to a fear of growing up.
"One day I was bored and decided to power on my old Xbox 360 I hadn't played in a few years, and I noticed my account had a friend request from months prior. I accepted the request — it was one of my childhood best friends that I hadn't talked to in maybe six years. Another childhood friend joined our Xbox Live party, and we all started to hang out. It greatly improved my depression and got my life on track. Now, eight years later, we live together and have good jobs and are all doing really well!"
16. Took a "temporary" job:
"I went to school to get one specific job. In urban areas, you need a minimum of five years' experience to even apply. I decided that I only wanted this job and didn't care about geography, so I started applying while still finishing my master's degree.
"I was offered the exact role I wanted, with great benefits and the exact same salary as that in urban areas, but in a low–cost of living area. It was in the middle of nowhere; I knew where it was on a map, and that was about it. I accepted the job with the intention of getting a little experience and getting back to the city as soon as possible.
"Eleven years later, I am still here. I love this village. My quality of life is amazing. I found my partner here. I have a two-minute commute to work. It is unbelievable how much of a difference no commute makes for hobbies and work-life balance. I am leaps and bounds ahead of my friends who steadfastly remained in urban areas. Some are still not in permanent jobs or getting a pension and whatnot.
"I have been debt-free since a year after moving here, and I am able to retire comfortably at 55 if I want to. Being simply open-minded about geography changed my entire life. It also makes 'going to the city' feel like a fun trip."
17. Signed up for what seemed like an easy A:
"I jokingly signed up for a computer science class in junior high because it was the first year they were teaching it and I figured it would be some bullshit easy A. Turns out I love programming — I'm currently in the 18th year of my career."
18. Sat in the middle seat:
"When I was a kid, my mom, cousin, sister, and I were all about to go to my great-grandma's house. It wasn't a far drive, so my mom allowed my sister (who was 11 at the time) to sit up front, leaving my cousin and me in the back. My cousin chose the window seat behind the driver. For some reason, I felt a need to sit in the middle instead of taking the other window seat. Two minutes into the drive over, a woman who was clearly not paying attention slammed right into the side of the car where I'd chosen not to sit. A firefighter later told us that if anyone had been sitting there, they would be dead. Instead, all four of us walked away with two bruises and a scratch."
19. Drove with a friend:
"A friend asked if I’d drive with her to pick up her friend at LAX so she could drive in the carpool lane. I said yes.
"I asked her friend to marry me six months later. We have two kids and have been married for 10 years now!"
20. Downloaded a dating app:
"I came home from work in a really foul mood. I was angry with my job, my parents (with whom I lived), and my general situation. So I decided to do something 'rebellious' and download OkCupid so that I could have some conversations with random people and blow off some steam. I only planned on using the app for that day and then deleting it as soon as I cooled down.
"I ended up meeting my now-husband on the app that day. Because of him, I got married, moved to a new city, started a great job in higher education, and pursued my master's degree (which I am ALMOST done with!!). I can’t help but think that if I hadn’t been angry and downloaded that stupid app, I wouldn’t be where I am today."
21. Decided to leave for work late:
"I left a few minutes late for work one day, which was fine, since I picked my hours, but I always tried to get in early to leave early. It was Halloween and I was planning on sticking around work, so why not get paid for it, right?
"I hit traffic on the highway and came to a stop, but the semi behind me didn't and rear-ended me, causing a nine-car pileup. Everyone was really lucky, including me. But my car was written off. I missed work because I was sitting on the side of the highway for two hours and my boyfriend at the time wasn’t answering.
"I had nightmares for a while about the accident. I knew that the semi was behind me and that they can’t stop as fast as I could, so I was aware and watched him hit me. The insurance company made me go to counseling about the nightmares, and when we sorted that out, we started digging into my personal life.
"It changed my life. I woke up after being on autopilot for years. I got out of my toxic relationship and moved closer to where I grew up. I’m an entirely different person: I’m happy, I actually like myself, and I do what I want. All because I decided to leave late because it was Halloween."
22. Ordered the wrong drink:
"I was planning on staying in for the night when i received a text from a workmate telling me that 'the planets have aligned' and everyone I knew was at the pub. I thought he was pulling my leg but thought, What the heck; nothing else to do around here.
"Forty minutes later I arrived, and lo and behold, every one of my mates was out having a great time. Seeing that most of us were running low on drinks, a few of us headed to the bar to order another round. We had ordered our drinks and were heading back to the others when I realized I'd gotten the wrong drink. I headed back alone to grab my rum.
"Out of nowhere, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Thinking it was one of my friends, I swung around with the goofiest look on my face. It was some random chick (my future girlfriend) trying out a cheesy pickup line on me. Now, I'm not the most socially adept person, and I wasn't sure if she was joking or not. This had never happened to me. I panicked, laughed nervously, and went, 'WHAT!?' still with my goofy face on.
"Fast-forward to the present — if I'd never gone back to change that rum, I wouldn't have met Ash and traveled all around the country doing things I never thought I'd do. My life changed completely just because i goofed up on ordering my own drink."
23. Crashed a party:
"I wasn't invited to do anything for New Year's Eve several years ago. I was feeling super depressed, and I found out that a group of my friends were planning a party and had sent out invites on Facebook, and I hadn't been included. A friend at the time told me to come with her and her partner and crash the party. I was feeling guilty about it because I don't like doing those things, but I decided to go anyway.
"That night was the night I met my husband. Two years later, on New Year's Eve, he proposed, and we got married in June two years after that. Had I decided to stay home feeling depressed that night, I wouldn't be married today, and I definitely wouldn't be pregnant — we're expecting our first this fall!"
24. Wrote fanfiction:
"When I was doing a year abroad back in 2013–14, I did five and a half months in China and was extremely lonely. I was young and unprepared, nobody spoke English, I didn't speak Mandarin, and it was overall just a shitshow. I stayed and finished the time, though, meanwhile getting into fandoms through Tumblr. I'd never heard of fanfiction before, but I'd always loved writing. I started reading some stuff and thought I could do it better, and that maybe I'd find some people to talk to online while practicing my hobby.
"About 130,000 words and a bunch of followers and friends later, I met someone who ended up becoming one of my best friends. He lives in Australia, and in 2017 I flew out to be his 'best man' (I'm a woman) at his wedding. Also, toward the end of 2014, when I was back home, I got fan mail from a girl who lived in London. I should probably mention at this point that I'm a lesbian, because at the end of 2018, I packed up my life and moved to London to live with her. I asked her to marry me a little over six months ago, and she said yes.
"Posting some stupid lesbian fanfiction online was the best decision of my life, and I never thought I'd ever say that."
Moral of the story: Always say yes to going to a last-minute concert, follow gut instincts, and welcome changes when they come!
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.