And That Has Made All The Difference
“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is a poem that I have heard at several graduations and events as a motivational addition, often including the lines from the last stanza: “two roads diverged in a wood, and I / I took the one less traveled by / and that has made all the difference.”
When I first heard this poem, I was completely oblivious (like always) to the true meaning of it. I thought: “what an amazing message: you should choose to be different from everybody else, I like, totally get it!” It wasn’t until later that I realized that I’m an English major who can’t understand poetry, and it’s tragic.
Throughout the poem, Frost tells us that both roads are exactly the same. Lines like: “then took the other, just as fair; had worn them really about the same; and both that morning equally lay; etc.,” really alters the entire image of the poem (along with everything your middle school teachers ever taught you). But can’t you picture it perfectly? Telling tall tales to others, imploring them to dare to be different “with a sigh?” Daring them to pick that path? Doesn’t it make you feel all warm and fuzzy when an author can write the way he can?!
But then I started thinking about choices.
First of all, it’s never as easy as having to choose between two roads. It’s more like constantly feeling like you’re at a twenty-way intersection, being pulled in a thousand different directions. Now that we’ve graduated, and I find myself on the panic-attack-circuit - the kind where you feel as though you cannot breathe even though you know you can - I can’t help but think about the choices I’ve made, asking myself on several different occasions: “Did I do the right thing?”
Everything comes down to a choice, really. And often, it’s disheartening to realize that you’ll never be able to know each outcome; “And sorry I could not travel both,” Frost says; because you so badly want to understand the way that things work out, and the way that they don’t, that hidden reasoning behind everything that you convince yourself must be there, even if you’re not sure what it is.
It would make sense then, to want to be able to tell others that you took that road less traveled, to relay that brief moment of bravery because it’s hard, sometimes, to face yourself, all of those conflicting fragments of you; so often I have found it difficult to choose who I am and who I’ve thought I had to be, to decide which road was right. And all of this time, I have been so focused on trying to find myself. But how can we ever truly find ourselves when we are so often constantly changing and rearranging? Maybe once in a while we should lose ourselves; in an experience, in a moment, in a feeling. Maybe getting lost isn’t such a bad thing.
To quote one of the greatest songs of all time (written by one of the greatest bands of all time); there is “still time to change the road you’re on.”
That’s the thing about roads, isn’t it? There will always be a chance to turn around, to start over, to end, to become. And it doesn’t matter which path you take as long as you are the one who chooses to take it. It’s as simple as a stanza in a poem. Because maybe who you are today isn’t who you were yesterday, and won’t be who you’ll be tomorrow. Maybe instead we should stop worrying so much about searching for that person that we think we have to be and just choose to be ourselves. Maybe the choices have always been ours. Maybe we just have to trust ourselves enough to make them.
“And that has made all the difference.”
(Inspiration for this post goes to my two great loves: Robert Frost & Led Zeppelin.)
[Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.]