By Melanie Walker
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
There are numerous reasons why Robert Frost is my favorite poet—it could be that he was the first to help me discover my immense love of poetry from reading Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. It could be his ability to turn any scene or object in nature into a metaphor for the highs and lows of life we experience. Whatever the reason is, I connect to Frost on a deep level as I ponder his works and often find them parallel to my life.
In The Road Not Taken, I imagine a person at a fork in the road. Maybe the person sits down on the gravel road facing the fork for hours and hours, contemplating what the final outcome of both roads will be. Maybe the person starts down the road to the left, only to become frightened and unsuccessfully backtracks to that fork to find the other road. Or maybe the person takes the road on the right confidently, never looking back.
We live in an age of instant-gratification and ambiguous decision-making. We want others to make decisions for us and we want the results immediately. In my life, when forks come to my road, I will often sit for months and months, afraid to take the wrong path. I’d be lying if I said that several times in my life, and even more now as I’m finding more and more forks come into my road, I didn’t often wonder about the other road—wondering about how differently my life would have been had I taken it.
Would I have been happier? Would I have had a happy family by now? Would I have been more successful? Often it brings me that same sad, lonely feeling as my steps slow on the path I took and I look up longingly at the open sky.
I have a name for this: The Other Road Syndrome. And I am here to testify that it can be very self-destructive. Sure, I could have taken the road that led me to marriage at 21 years-old with a guy who I could have learned to love later down the road. I could have chosen a different major or a different college-experience.
But the truth is, I chose the path less traveled by because I thought that it would be the best course for my life at the time I made the decision. I could wander down that path feeling like I missed out on the other road and anxious about if I should have taken it, or I can embrace the path I chose feeling confident in whatever impulse or call-it-intuition I was feeling when I started down the road I chose.
The important thing is, our roads in life don’t define us as people—it’s how we choose to walk down the road and what we choose to do along the way.
Don’t like the road you’re on? There will be another fork in the road to decide between at some point and you can take another path. Or maybe you need to take break in your stride and smell the wild flowers on the side of the path.
It’s time to stop wondering about the other road, and start living on the road we decided to take. And I promise you, that will make all the difference.