It is cold, rainy and wintry, by Central Texas standards, and the absence of sun seems ripe for contemplation. Although I try not to let it happen, today turned into a “what if” day. Don’t you hate those days. What if, I done this differently? What if, I done that differently? What if, I’d stayed in New Orleans all those long years ago, instead of moving to Texas? What would my life be like? What if, I listened to all those people who told me that my life was over when I made the foolish mistake of becoming a teen mother? What if, I believed that I was destined to be yet another statistic and on the public dole with no education or skills to take care of myself or my children? I’ve concluded that engaging in these “what ifs” comes down to questioning ourselves and our past choices, a yearning for ‘the road not taken.’
Recently, I was reading bits and pieces of my twitter stream and someone referred to the phrase “the road less travelled,” which is often used in reference to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” As I recall, I read the poem for the first time in an high school English class. http://www.bartleby.com/119/1.html At the time, the wannabe rebel in me, wanting to set her own path and follow no one, assumed that, Frost was advising that, when faced with two forks in the road, one trodden by the masses and the other, not so, to take the road less traveled. I was wrong because in both stanzas two and three Frost asserts little difference between the roads.
“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”
However, I think that it is the final paragraph that informs us of the true meaning of the poem:
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.
Frost’s use of the words “I shall be telling this with a sigh” indicates a sense of regret and wonder about the choice he made so long ago. In hindsight, even he wonders how his life would differ had he chosen to trod the other road. Although even amongst scholars, the poem’s interpretation is in dispute, I believe the poem is about choice in general, hindsight and especially, regret wrought by a choice between those equally appealing options.
Our life is but a series of blind choices. This applies to every decision in our lives–one choice, means the exclusion of another choice. Mom was right, you really can’t have it both ways. Lacking prescience, we make our choices based on blind faith with no knowledge of where the choice will lead. In others, when we are forced to choose between equally compelling options, the choice is far from clear. Instead of resorting to “what ifs,” after determining the pros and cons of each choice, and the information at hand, we choose; then we pray for the best or release it to our God/Spirit/Source, for that is the most that we can do. In choosing, we necessarily reject options that only the fates know where they would lead and minimize the “what ifs” that will lead nowhere. We chose, we live, and time will tell.