In life there are turning points, decision points, and events that are game-changers. You and I have made decisions that have changed the course of our lives, more than once. Perhaps the decision to go to college/university, to get married, or to have children have all steered your life in a new direction from the moment the decision was made. Maybe for you, the decision to have one more drink, the decision to just try “it” once, or the decision to go ahead and say it anyway also changed your life in a way you will never forget.
We make a hundred decisions every single day (probably more). I’d be willing to bet 90% of the decisions we make, are quick and simple. We barely give the transaction any thought. The decision just happens. Decisions are to life, what the asphalt is to a city street. Each time you make a decision, the road is paved just that little bit more, traveling a route that is part-way planned. Sometimes we get a heads-up on the decisions we get to make. Other times, things are thrown at us, which call for a decision to be made. It is all of these decisions which change life’s route, changing the direction of the road a little bit each time.
Sometimes we spend more time thinking and analyzing what decisions to make. We take life’s events and decisions through the pros and cons, the ups and downs, the costs and benefits…blah, blah, blah. I know I do this when deciding on things for work, investments, purchases, courses to take, and books to read. In the grand scheme of things, these choices might appear to be important in the moments that they live in, but they’re just regular decisions in life. We expect the decisions we make and our responses to life’s events – to keep us safe, satisfied, growing, successful, progressive, connected and…happy. Whatever the case, some decisions and responses we have to make, cannot give us all of the above, all of the time. This can be very frustrating, right? In all honesty, life can be like one disastrous McDonald’s Drive Thru order. You might order a Big Mac meal, large size…and you end up getting a Chicken McNuggets kids meal. Things happen!
Now to go off on a bit of a tangent…but I’ll come back to decisions.
When I took grade ten English in high school, we had to read a lot of poetry. Back then, I did not have the love, passion and respect for literature that I most certainly have now. Most of high school English is lost in my black hole of memories from the past. There was very little that was memorable about what I learned, except a unit of poetry. I did not appreciate having to analyze and respond to poetry. But I sure did love reading it. It was the first time I was really exposed to poetry that was gripping, thought-provoking, and relevant. Reading poetry was just as wonderful, warm and comforting as savouring a chocolate melting away in my mouth.
One day in grade ten English, I met my favourite poem. It taught me what decisions in life were really all about. I read it over and over and kept a copy of it taped up in my bedroom closet. When I went to university, I kept a copy of it in my journal. But after that, the poem left me. I stopped posting it where I could see it. Years went by, and I never thought about it. In fact, I don’t ever remember missing my favourite poem.
A few years ago, I was planning a poetry unit with a group of teachers. My favourite poem jumped into my head and I just had to find a way to use it. Would 11-year olds appreciate the message and the beauty of the words? Maybe…maybe not. But I knew that I had to use the poem, because it was something I was passionate about. I truly believed that the poem could teach my young listeners about life and the choices we are often faced and challenged with. Surely, students would see that, and come to value the brilliance of this poem, just as I had.
I’m so glad that my poem came back to me that day, because it was on its way to being forgotten forever. From that day, the poem re-anchored itself in my life. I actually believe that when I was that 15-year old, grade ten student, I knew I would need this poem.
Today marks a very special day for me. It is the anniversary of a special turning point in my life where something came my way that will forever sit on my timeline. From this anniversary day forward, everything shifted and changed for me. I learned new skills, and learned about myself in ways that I never thought possible.
This anniversary and my favourite poem have met each other somewhere on this road through life. I see the road as one that is under construction, in an effort to widen and improve a driver’s experience. When building a new road, a very large crater is made in the ground. The gaping hole gets filled with gritty, sharp, abrasive sand. Next, the loose, rough gravel is strewn across the ground leaving it shaky and unstable. Along comes the pounder and roller make the road strong and durable. At last, the warm, black, soft layer of asphalt is rolled out. Ah yes, paving makes the whole process well worthwhile. Lastly, its time to add some beauty, so the bright, sunshine yellow stripes, and diamond white accents are added. The road is complete.
So, where am I in this road construction? Well, I think my asphalt crew just arrived and they’re surveying the surface before they start paving. Before my anniversary day, I was casually traveling my well planned route. I was going mach-speed on the highway of life. Suddenly, I hit a sink hole, and I had to slow down to manoeuvre around it. So, I decided to get off the highway, and I began to take the scenic route.
Looking back at my favourite poem brings a whole new meaning. I think this anniversary today marks that spot where my “two roads diverged”. I’m not exactly sure if I’ve picked the road I want to take next. But, I do know that this needs to happen. We all know how impatient we become when we don’t know which direction to go. Maybe I should do what all the ladies do, stop and ask for directions. That might make things a little easier. Yes, asking for help is okay.
Which road are you taking?
NOTE: Thank you to Robert Frost for writing one of the most important pieces of text I have ever read.
The Road Not Taken
By: Robert Frost
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 that 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.