Day 1,666 – Thankful for The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

A couple of weekends ago I awoke to a message waiting for me in Facebook Messenger. It was only by chance that I happened to open the app as I don’t have the notifications on for it (of most of my other apps, but that’s a conversation for another day). My inbox contained a message from my friend Steve. There was no note attached, only a link. You can check it out here.

A handful of years ago Steve went on a road trip to Colorado with the boys and I. As we drove down an old country road surrounded by aspen we pulled over for a little hike. When we got back in the car and started driving Steve went on the recite the entire poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost… from memory. To this day when the boys hear the poem they confirm that it is the one Steve told them on that trip.

Over the past week and a half I’ve considered blogging about The Road Not Taken, but it didn’t quite feel right. From the past five plus years of blogging I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Some blogs need to grow, ferment, marinate, and age before they are ready. Tonight I’m thankful for waiting on this one as it finally seems right today.

When I hear this poem referenced it is often focused on the lines:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

When read in a vacuum this seems to be a call for originality, to be a rebel, and to go your own way. It these were the only three lines this would most likely have been the intent.

If one focuses only on those three lines it is so easy to misunderstand the full meaning of the poem and to miss out on the beauty that is the uncertainty of the conclusion. Thats one of the reasons I am grateful for this poem today. The complexity, uncertainty, and duality of meaning is seemingly rivaled by only life itself. Heck, even the lines before the three above add both feelings of remorse and satisfaction at the same time. We are left to decide for ourselves which the author is feeling as they write.

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.

When one listens completely there are so many meanings behind the poem. Almost every sentiment could be taken in different ways. The mood I am in seems to influence it differently each time I read it. Sometimes I find it inspiring to go where other’s haven’t gone. Other times it reminds me that life is about choice. There are also times when I realize that any path while walking in the woods is the correct choice.

Personally, the piece that has been resonating with me recently is one from the picture below:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

What this stirs in me is the acceptance of choice – both in the path chosen and in accepting that some paths will go on untrodden by my feet. The nature of decision itself is in taking one path and thereby not taking another. Even if time allows another opportunity to travel the original road not taken the hike upon it will not be the same as before as I, the traveller, will be a different person than I was when I made the original decision.

The realization that the other path can never truly be taken the same way can be a stressful and fear inducing thought. If not considered appropriately I will never know what might have been. In a moment of stress and weakness I may look back to that path and become upset at my “incorrect choice.” When that happens there is one of the most insidious of emotions, regret.

On the converse, the thought of choosing to take one path can be the cause of great joy – even in, especially in, moments of stress and challenge. If I choose an emotion of gratitude I decide to want what I have instead of attempting to have what I want. When my choice is gratitude I see the other path as nonexistent as it is no longer there, there is only the path forward.

As I choose other paths in the future it will all be one path melded through gratitude rather than an ever weakening spiderweb of regret.

For me, today, this poem reminds me to accept the need to make a choice and to accept that the road not taken will be no more.

My thoughts of the past week have gone back to this poem on many occasions. In thinking on it and learning about it my life has been enriched. That is something I will be eternally thankful for.


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