To further take this analogy in different directions, I also thought about your particular version.
What does it really matter whether or not you walk up the riverbank on this side, or on the other side? If you swim across the river, arrive downstream, then, in relative safety (from the forest fire), you can walk upstream over there.
The key is intent.
The way you first presented it, you`re suggesting that intent has no real place in life. It doesn`t matter whether you get one place or another. Wherever you are, that`s just fine, and you`re there. That`s the Tao or Zen system coming out of eastern philosophy.
But I`m saying that intent matters. Not only that, but deliberate intent matters. Yes, the forcible application of effort toward a specific intent can often lead to frustration. But that`s not necessarily a reason to abandon entirely the whole concept of intent.
So the problem becomes how to hold onto an intent (a specific goal), yet not get wiped out swimming totally against the currents and forces of life.
Another thing to keep in mind is adaptability. It`s not impossible that where you arrive after crossing the river could indeed be a very cool place. It could be better than what you thought you saw before plunging into the fray. That`s adaptability.
All we know is that a river exists (life). It has many forces that vary in strength and direction. We also know that each of us has our own personal energy, our own skills, and our abilities.
We can choose to never try to cross the river, living in familiar comfort in the towns that spring up on one side of that river. Or we can choose to adventure, searching out new goals and ideas.
In some historic times, events lead to catastrophes for the towns along the sides of the river. Floods, fires, earthquakes (metaphorically speaking) can wipe out our comfort zone. We either have already learned how to swim, in which case we must cross the river; or, we haven`t ever tried swimming. In that case, we often perish.
The major question is always, "What do I want out of life?"
Some people say they want everything always to stay the same---safe, comfortable, with no surprises. Others say they want adventure, risk, drama and rewards.
If we really wanted to push the analogy, then in your circumstances, you also could become a firefighter. You could stay where you are and learn how to save the towns threatened by the fire. :-)
Realism is all well and good, but you have to be very careful that you don`t confuse it with Pragmatism. In the latter, "whatever works" is the moral "good." That leads to some really serious problems.
On the other hand, to practice realism you have to answer the age-old question of exactly what is real? And that`s where philosophy has utterly caved in over the past several centuries.