Have you ever found yourself driving on the interstate in a big city where you are a stranger, six lanes of traffic going each way, before the days of navigation systems, locals flying past you on both sides and blowing their horns? You are keenly aware that one wrong turn could send you toward Boston instead of Seattle.
It is a modern-day “road not taken” moment.
April is National Poetry Month which causes me to reflect on my favorite poem, Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” Thanks to the determination of my high school English teacher and Frost’s innate genius, I forsook passing notes to my girlfriends and actually paid attention in school that day. I am glad that I did.
My life has been a case study in choosing between roads and often selecting the one less traveled, sometimes just to be stubborn and prove I could, sometimes with my heart in conflict with my mind, occasionally feeling like it wasn’t a choice at all, that I was finally just giving in to an inclination so natural it was only a matter of time.
Growing up different in small town Mississippi, to say the least, was seldom easy. Now and then it was almost unspeakably difficult. I remember the coaches publicly ridiculing me for not being like the other boys, so savage in their critique that it warped my self-image for years. I like to think such behavior would not be tolerated in today’s schools, and in the good ones like we have here in Vicksburg, I know I am right. I also know, a generation later and more enlightened than where I grew up, there are still children today being persecuted by those paid and honor-bound to protect them.
I took the road less traveled sitting with the girls, helping them with their hairstyles and providing wardrobe consultations. Was it deliberately disrespectful of social “norms” or intended as social protest? No. It was just me being me.
Years later, with my mind telling me all the reasons I should overrule my heart, all the people who would be hurt and disappointed by my decision, all of the doors which might be closed to me because of it, I gave in to my heart by starting a life, open and in the daylight for all to see, with the man I love. It hasn’t always been easy, but 17 years later, I can honestly say it remains the one true road for me.
Frost says it best: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
There are a dozen, a thousand, maybe even a million ways to be different, but in the end perhaps there is only one way to be wrong—and that is not to be honest about who you are and let the chips fall where they may.
Contact David at [email protected]