Today is Another Day

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[1]

I’m back on the poetry again.

A while back I found a flash drive with some essays I wrote for my bachelor’s degree and I realized I remember very few of the novels I read for my degree.

What I remember are the poems.  And the plays.

Especially the plays.  But that’s a thought for a different day.

Robert Frost.  The Road Not Taken.

Most people think this poem is about individualism, about following your own path, even when it diverges from the norm.

Literary people think it’s about the stories we tell ourselves later in life to justify our choices.  In the beginning of the poem the roads were the same; on “as just as fair” as the other “both that morning equally lay.”  It is only years later, in the last stanza, when the speaker is older and reflecting on his life, that he declares the one he chose to be the one less travelled.  He’s trying to make himself more interesting in his golden years by making a mundane choice seem adventurous.

I went a completely different direction with it.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

You can’t go back again.  Everyone knows that.  The message permeates music, television, books and movies.  You cannot go back.  You can only go forward.  There is no rewinding time.  It’s conventional wisdom.

I was never very good at being conventional.

Goddess knows I tried.  All I ever wanted in life was to be average, to be normal, to blend in to the crowd.

I think the reason poets piss me off is because they’re so irrational.

I am not a dreamer.  I am an achiever.

I never aimed for the stars and hit a mountain.  I saw a mountain, thought it looked mighty nice at the top, so I climbed it.

And I did it by conforming.  From my earliest memory, I felt like an outsider, and my solution to this was to assimilate my little ass off.

I didn’t dream as a child of becoming a lawyer or a writer or even a bartender.

I didn’t care what I did for work, as long as I fit in doing it.

I have not achieved my goals.  I have done an absolutely miserable job of being “normal.”

I stand out.  Always.  I can’t seem to stop.

So I’ve given up.

In 2008, I faced a fork in my road.  Two diverging paths.  One impractical, a road for dreamers and poets and artists.  The other pragmatic, a socially acceptable, well-lit highway to stability.  One guaranteed a life of fiscal uncertainty, the other carried the potential for financial security.

I chose the conventional path.  The intelligent path, according to all objective data available to me.

I did well on that road.  I started out way behind the other travelers, yet managed to reach the end before most of the people who had trained there entire lives to make the same journey.

And then I fell in a pit.  A deep, dark pit filled with sharpened sticks and bits of broken glass, with monsters lurking in the shadows.

Just because something is easy that doesn’t mean it’s right.

I don’t belong on the capitalist highway.  And trying to force myself to continue that journey drained my soul away until I thought it would kill me.  I am not well suited for conventional society.

I belong on a quiet, barely visible path winding its way through the forest, getting lost in the underbrush sometimes, but always picking up the trail eventually.

So I turned back.  I returned to my crossroads and went a different direction.

This path has not been easy.  This road is rocky and full of holes.  I keep tripping on thick tangles of thorny vines, and there’s millions of those little burweed stickers everywhere, working their way into my clothes and pricking and scratching me raw.

There are monsters on this path.  Big, dark, evil things from my past that saw my vulnerability and took the opportunity to attack.

I’ve fallen more than a few times, and have had to rely on the kindness of both friends and strangers to pick me back up, but I’m starting to find my feet here.  I know what I want, and I can see how to get there.

The way is not entirely clear yet.  There is a place up ahead where the road splits, arcs around and comes back to itself.  The place where it diverges is dark with the shadows of choices not yet made.  Not all of the choices are mine.

There will be times when my route will be influenced by the decisions of others, because such is the nature of life.

But this time I am following my heart, choosing not the path that will make the most money, but the path that will cause the least pain. 

There have been days on this path where I have felt moments of such pure joy, they took my breath away.  There have been days of serenity when my heartrate manages to slow of its own accord.  There have been days of bliss, when I couldn’t keep the smile off my face if I tried.

Those are the days I am chasing.  The days when the world doesn’t hurt and it feels like there just might be a future after all.

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[1] Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, full text available here:

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