We have all come to that point in the road — a decision we feel is a “make or break it” point. Many of us look back and wonder: What if I had taken the other road? Then would my life have turned out the way I wished? Or maybe we look back in relief and are glad we chose the road we are on. I want to offer another frame for this dilemma. What if it is not so much the roads we choose, but the way we walk them, and the fact that we continue to walk them, that makes all the difference?
The Road Not Taken is one of Robert Frost’s most misunderstood poems. If one reads carefully, the two paths were the same. His decision was not in taking the “one less traveled” but in deciding it was less traveled, and that fact would make all the difference.
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;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
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.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Recently, I was reorganizing my books and discovered a small, barely written in journal. At the time it was written in I was in Nicaragua working as a documentarian. I had been living in New York, but for a moment was considering permanently moving to Nicaragua to work with non-profits and document their work full time. My written word has more clarity and wisdom than my swirling thoughts. If I can contain my musings on a page, I can better understand what I want and need. What follows was a scrawled brain dump debating which road to walk — stay in Brooklyn or move to Nicaragua.
I can do so much more good here. I can facilitate the story and tell it, I am free to be ME here, no one judges my appearance, only my heart. In America it is a constant effort to stay true to myself. We are of so much more use here, our talents, our hearts, we can share so much. I feel like I need to run and run and never stop, learn to film and be active and live at a different pace in a different place. New York showed me who I was not. Can Nica make me who I am? We cannot fix it, but we can love it and by loving it, it will be fixed! I can love! I have felt something coming for sometime, I feel that this is it!
In the end, I choose not to move to Nicaragua, but stayed in New York for several more years before moving west to California. If I had read this earlier, I might have been met with a feeling of “what if.” However, I was not struck by what could have been, but rather by what is. Many of the underlying goals and passions expressed in my journal entry I am living out in my life today. My work with “developing” elderhood in this country is similar to work in developing countries. ‘There is nothing to be fixed, only loved.’
I am living this life, I am living at a different pace, I am facilitating story, I am loving people, I am comfortable in my own skin, I am following my heart and my intuition. Would I be here if I had moved to Nicaragua? I will never know. My guess is that the physical location is not as important as the metaphysical or psychological one. According to James Hillman’s acorn theory outlined in his book The Soul’s Code, inside all of us is the acorn of the oak tree we may become. We unconsciously, or sometimes consciously, choose aspects of our life for the sake of our acorn’s growth.
Finding and reading this journal entry showed me that my commitment to knowing who I am has brought me to a place I wanted to be. I could talk about why I didn’t end up in Nicaragua, but it would not matter. No matter what choices life throws at you (the more years we live the more choices we get to make) keep following your path (even and especially when this involves reimagination), refuse to settle, and walk your road your way, it makes all the difference.