I was seventeen, almost a senior in high school. I was riding my bike to school. I had taken a special route to pick up a gift, but that day, "the road less traveled by" led to disaster. Crossing a road, a drunk driver ran a red light, slammed into me, and shattered my left knee.
It made all the difference.
I was forced to postpone college, plunged into painful therapy . . . but eventually, I also learned much about life and myself. I found the strength to withstand adversity, learned compassion, and above all, I learned that the road not taken is not just about regrets or choices but also about the perpetual now and the always-coming future.
When I first studied Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” in middle school, I was unable to grasp its ambiguity. I always thought that Frost’s persona chooses “a road less traveled by” and lives life being subversive and irreverent. I was wrong. In the poem, both of the two roads that “diverged in a yellow wood” are actually “about the same.” But there has to be a choice, and sometimes, they it can be involuntary (as I learned the hard way). This makes me extremely thankful and resolute when I can make conscious choices and plan for the future, and so I know now that Frost's poem is also about "the road not [yet] taken."
For everyone, this means something slightly different. For me, it means constant vigilance, learning, and love. Our journey is hard, complex, and it often presents unexpected twists, but reflecting on the roads not taken and not yet taken each day gives us a little more strength and confidence. Life cannot and will not me perfect, and the truth is it will end. But as Willa Cather would say, “The end is nothing, the road is all.” The road not taken in the past, and the road not yet taken that lies ahead.
But about the present? It joints the past and the future. What then, is “the road not taken” in the perpetual now? Personally, I find an answer in these lines from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses”:
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.