Pursuing Dreams Down The Road Not Taken
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”
I graduated from college nearly a month ago. Up until about a week before graduation, I had a somewhat solid path laid out before me. I would be moving to Dallas to begin a full-time, well-paid internship with a thriving company that would not only provide me with a wonderful learning opportunity, but also some financial stability.
But a few days before I was set to graduate, I received a call that would upend these plans I had set for myself. The Ryman Auditorium – a famed music venue in Nashville I have loved ever since I saw Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol perform together there my freshman year – was looking for a part-time backstage hospitality hostess. Since I had interned with the company before, they wanted to know if I would be interested in the position.
It should be noted that one of the many “dreams” of mine – to add a cliché into the mix – is to be the general manager of a music venue, so I was stuck weighing which option would be the right path to lead me toward this dream.
I was torn.
Do I pursue the “safe” internship in Dallas, or do I take the risk of working for a place I’ve always loved, but would also leave me scrambling to find another job or two to supplement my income?
“Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,”
It certainly was one of those “head versus heart” decisions, and the heart won out. In a whirlwind couple of days, I took the job at the Ryman and scrapped my plans to move to Dallas. Yet even though working for the Ryman once again makes me unbelievably happy, doubts still persist.
The question of “did I make the right choice?” echoes in my mind whenever I’m alone with my thoughts. As I look at my budget, I’m overwhelmed with the pressure to be financially independent. How will I even begin to pay all my bills on my own? Did I make a mistake? Will this path lead me toward my goals after all?
“And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.”
This summer, I visited Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the first time. The park covers more than 500,000 acres of mountain terrain between Tennessee and North Carolina.
The highest peak within the park is Clingmans Dome. On a clear day, you can see more than 100 miles to the hazy horizon. You’d expect a glorious vista such as this one to be difficult to come by, but that’s hardly the case. Instead, the entire pathway is paved, beginning from the asphalt road to the parking lot to the walkway up to the concrete lookout which stands as a sort of bleak grey park fortress. Throngs of loud visitors crowd the overlook, snapping a couple of photos before descending the vista, packing their cars and returning to the hellish eyesore that is Gatlinburg (and I mean that in the politest sense possible). A view such as this one should be wholly esteemed, yet the path is easy and has been trodden by many, making it difficult to fully appreciate it.
On the other hand there exists a trail known as Chimney Tops Trail. This trail covers less than 2 miles, yet contains a 1,487 feet elevation change. Read: This makes it hella hard. At the outset of my climb, I was met by both a park sign warning me of the “strenuous path” ahead and by two girls returning from the trail who nearly begged me to rethink my decision to climb it. Had it not been for the encouragement of my friends, I would’ve probably heeded the girls’ warnings to turn back dare I face the wrath of the mountain.
So I climbed. And the girls were right: it was hard. Really hard. The entire dirt path winds up the side of a mountain at a consistently unforgiving incline. The going was rough and I was hardly prepared. It was unbearably hot, I hadn’t brought enough water and I had to take a break every 15 minutes. Occasionally we’d pass by a hiker or two who would lend us a word of encouragement, but there was a spell where I seriously played out in my head how my friends would react should I die from exhaustion trying to reach the top (how embarrassing would that be, am I right?). Finally, we reached the summit, but not before having to scale a stretch of angled rock on our hands and knees for 50 feet. (Disclaimer: I didn’t actually make it completely to the summit due to the fact that climbing that rock was TERRIFYING, but let’s ignore this fact for the sake of the metaphor I’m going for here).
From my seat trembling from fright on that rock, you could finally see above the tree line, and what a view it was. Dark green mountain peaks surrounded us on every side. It was quiet save for the sound of a light breeze sweeping lazily over the ridges, rustling the trees as it glided by. At that point, the hike had become worth it – the sweat, the tears (lawls jk, no tears were shed), everything.
Both paths provided a view at the end worth at least 65 Instagram likes, yet the reward from the more difficult path was seven-fold as I was able to take in my surroundings in peace, feeling satisfied with the work I had put in to reach it.
I’d like to think that so, too, will this be the case with the path I’ve chosen for my career. There’s an inherent sacrifice in choosing the riskier path and chasing your dreams, even if those dreams seem distant and unclear down the foggy trail. Yes, the road won’t be paved, the climb will be strenuous, and budgeting will become a new best friend, but I’m hopeful that just around the bend will be a vista with views that will make the climb worth it.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”