When Robert Frost penned the poem The Road Not Taken it struck a chord with his readers, and it still does today a century after its publishing in 1916.
The words are famous, not only because they are beautifully written, but also because they speak to us in ways that make us think about ourselves, the decisions we make, and how valuable a new beginning can be just when we need it.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both,” the poem opens. It’s an amazing statement because the writer begins with an apology.
It seems apologies are less available these days. We are all correct always, no what we do and say. Your way of living is ok and so is mine. My truth is truth, and so is yours, even though it’s different. Everything is relevant. Not much is black and white anymore.
Think of the power of the apology, someone is admitting something about himself when he says it. I’m sorry. It’s a powerful statement.
The poem continues “and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.”
Life is full of making decisions in the moment. Look around you and suddenly you realize that there is a path to choose and there is no way to take both. We fool ourselves regularly, telling others that we can do everything. We can be all things to all people.
It’s out of fashion to be really good at just one thing. If you’re a carpenter, be the best carpenter you can ever become. It’s ok if there is not much else that makes you special. Choose one path and stick to it.
“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.”
When we finally do make a decision, we immediately question ourselves and we try to justify what we did no matter the consequences. Think of today’s popular phrase “sorry not sorry”. We want to be sorry, but being not sorry is so in. No matter what we decide, it was the right choice. At least that’s what we convince ourselves to believe.
“And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden back. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.”
We waste so much energy trying to retrace our steps. Every time we look back, we’re not looking forward. It’s O.K. to walk the path that others have not. There is risk, but often great reward.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Step out of your comfort zone. Stop following others simply because it feels good and safe. The next time you are thinking of which direction to follow, take a deep breath and look forward, take the road not taken.