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.
The Road Not Taken is one of the most popular and poignant poems on the English syllabus for young teenagers. But at thirteen, the archetypal dilemma that Robert Frost faces is just that – it is a typical example of how one must navigate life by a series of choices. At thirteen, you understand the meaning behind the poem as it is explained to you over and over again by your overly enthusiastic English teacher, but you don’t yet resonate with Robert Frost’s dilemma. At thirteen, the biggest choices you face are who you sit with at lunch, if you should risk getting into trouble by not doing your homework, and whether you should start shaving your legs against your mother’s wishes. Side-note: your mum is right, you are too young and too blonde to be worrying about hairy legs anyway, waiting until you are at least 15 is the right choice!
But at twenty-six, when revisiting the poem for the first time in thirteen years, you bet your bottom dollar that Frost’s words reverberate and resonate with you on a whole new level. Because now, you have some serious decisions to make. Maybe you are finally finished with college or you are just home from traveling the world for a few years. Maybe you have been working for a small while and realised that you have been wandering down the track to nowhere. Either way, it’s time to decide what to do with your life. But there are a myriad of paths to go down. You think about how blessed Frost was with just two roads to choose from. Lucky b*st*rd! You must have at least fifteen routes to contemplate the pros and cons of before you commit to just one.
The right one.
The one that will lead you to your happily ever after.
The one that will make your parents proud to bring you up during their grown-up dinner party conversation. My daughter, the doctor. My son, the lawyer. My child, the highly successful entrepreneur.
The one that won’t lead you down that scary spiralling road of regret. If only I went traveling when I finished university. I should have taken that job in Dubai, I’d be a millionaire by now. Why didn’t I study harder/work harder/exercise more/*insert personal ‘what if’ here*
The one that will fulfill you intellectually, spiritually, and financially. You have a degree so life will always be stimulating, meaningful and financially rewarding. Right?
Your path will be easy to find. I mean, you are the person who knows yourself the best. How hard can it be to figure out your passion and purpose in life?
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,
If only it was that easy. The Quarter-Life Crisis is alive and real people. I for one am in the midst of my very own, very real post-graduation-welcome-to-the-real-world-quarter-life-crisis. The last few months have been a very trying, stressful and depressing time as every day I ask myself what the hell am I doing with my life?
Susan Knox hits the nail on the head when she explains the Quarter-Life Crisis.
“You’re not quite qualified for anything, and you’re not exactly sure what you want to spend the next eighty years of your life doing. It’s when you question everything that you are, you never feel good enough, you worry endlessly about whether or not you’re going to be a success, you’re terrified of failing and even more terrified to follow your dreams. You go through stages of denial, panic, excessive over-eating and procrastination but nothing seems to ease the burden upon your shoulders.”
(Susan get’s it. Susan gets me. Read Susan’s hilarious yet enlightening quarter-life crisis article here. Susan understands!)
Like most millennials, I am not necessarily looking for a career. People change their career these days more than they change their underwear! I am searching for purpose. I am ardently self-examining and vigorously trying to uncover my passion. I am good at a lot of things, but am I great at anything? I’ve recently moved back home for the first time since I moved out 8 years ago. Why am I moving backwards when society tells me I’m supposed to be going forward?
I am my own worst enemy as I scroll through my Facebook feed lusting after the lives of my friends and many acquaintances.
Alice is working towards her PhD. Maybe I should do my PhD?
Jen is travelling the world while teaching English? Maybe I should travel the world and teach English?
Emma is earning a nice salary with a top finance firm. Maybe I should apply to a top finance firm?
Louise has left the corporate rat-race and is selling fresh produce & juices at local farmers markets? Maybe I should…..
My friends appear to have it all figured out on paper. Or at least on Facebook, this is 2015 after all. Maybe they have. Then again, maybe they haven’t.
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.
The thing about maybe is that there is always a choice to make. And with every choice to make, there will always be a what if.
Too often we get ourselves down by comparing ourselves to other people. We seldom celebrate our little victories, instead choosing to berate ourselves over something that we have not achieved yet despite our hard efforts. However, we are the first in line to offer words of encouragement to a friend in a similar situation.
Why are we so quick to reprehend ourselves and disregard our own advice?
From a very young age we have heard that everyone is different. We are told that we possess the power to overcome our biggest obstacles and achieve our biggest dreams. We acknowledge that no two people are the same. You are unique. Therefore, you should NEVER compare yourself to anybody else.
Everyone’s path is different. Some are long. Some are short. Some people find shortcuts to reach their finish line. Others wander aimlessly just to find a place that they’d like to sit for a while before, standing up, brushing themselves off and carrying on for another adventure.
That’s the beauty of life.
Your struggle is not a reflection of someone else’s success.
Once you realise this, forging your own path becomes that little bit easier.
Source: Twenty Two Words
Several of things happened over the last week to prompt this rambling post.
Birthday party invitations. A lot of my friends are turning 30 over the next few months, and have kindly invited me to celebrate this milestone with them. As I RSVP’d to some, and regretfully declined to others, it struck me at how different each of my friend’s lives are. One has recently bought a house. One got married last year. One has recently changed careers. One has just come home after a few years of traveling. The only thing in they have in common is that they are all still ‘finding themselves’ in some aspect of life. Realising this has hugely impacted my thoughts on where I am at 26. If they are still navigating and making sense of life at 30, there is hope for me yet 🙂
The realisation that the grass is always greener. Even if you are not where you want to be right now, there will be someone admiring your choices and wondering how you have achieved what you have. I may be going through my own quarter-life crisis right now, but I was recently reminded by friends and family of my achievements, talents and unique skill-set. Conversations that started with ‘I’d love to have your talent for….’ or ‘I wish I could be as good at *insert skill here* as you’ have prompted me to start a special and personal project which I will hopefully be sharing with you all very soon.
Tough love. I’m lucky to have a person in my life who will call me out when I am feeling sorry for myself. She reminds me how much I have achieved so far, and that it’s ok not know what I’m doing with my life. She reminds me that I am not alone in feeling lost, and sticks by me even as I unconsciously revert into my introvert state. Even though I’ve been completely self-absorbed and in my own little bubble lately, she has reminded me that maybe I should be less focused on my purpose in life, and just start doing things I love. After all, I am going to have what if’s no matter what road I choose to take.
Recognition. The lovely folks behind @IrishBlogHour on twitter announced me as their Blog of the Week on Thursday. Despite being the worst blogger on the planet over the last few weeks, this simple act of recognition has given me the motivation to get this blog back up and running again. So thank you Dave & Gill at Doodle Moose Designs for choosing me as your Irish Blog of the Week.
Join the chat #IrishBlogHour every Thursday from 8pm and meet others from the Irish Blogging Community.
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.
Ironically, The Road Not Taken is not about choosing the right path. It is about acknowledging that there is no right path to take. It is about decision making; about choosing a path that will ultimately lead you to another and force you into the same predicament making choices again. The nature of the decision that Frost voices has no definitive basis for decision making.
He knows that there will be what if’s.
He knows that he will look back and wonder at what was irrevocably lost. And that’s ok.
He knows there are no wrong decisions, but simply moments of decision making.
These moments mark the passing of a life. These moments are what makes your life YOUR life, and nobody else’s. These moments represent the struggles, the successes, the highs and the lows, the twists and the turns of life.
So while i’m still searching for my purpose in life, still looking for a job that will fulfill me after graduation, and still trying to figure out who I really am, I understand that there is no wrong path for me to take. I’m owning my Quarter-Life Crisis right now. I’m taking it in my own hands and exploring all avenues. Because the worst thing you can do to your future is to leave is stagnant and end up telling ‘your story with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence.’
That being said, just remember….
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