Which Road Should I Travel? How Do You Know?

Two Roads - Shimoda, Japan - May, 2013

Two Roads – Shimoda, Japan – May, 2013

Robert Frost had it nailed when he said “way leads on to way” so [he] doubted [he] “would ever go back,” while standing at the fork in the road within the yellow woods.

I was sitting here at the keyboard this morning wondering what to blog about when suddenly I had a thought about forks in the road, crossroads and Mr. Frost. Years ago, in college we were given an assignment to read and interpret his poem “The Road Less Travelled.” At the time, I found the writing a bit silly and sincerely wondered what all the fuss was about over this particular piece of poetry (shows you what I knew). What the heck was he talking about anyway? One road has the “better claim” the other is “wanting wear”? Does a road “want wear?”

Back then, life decisions seemed like things that would occur to you in “Aha” moments. When the knowledge came to you, it would be delivered in the form of neatly wrapped UPS or FedEx packages dropped one day on the doorstep of your thoughts. Sort of as if the drivers’ morning routes would be filled with “Career and Life Decision” packages to be left on the doorsteps of all of us waiting, not so patiently or calmly to figure it all out. And so, as I wondered and questioned and tried to guide myself towards some semblance of life choices, I still kept waiting for the package(s) to come.

I assumed they’d come in some sort of increments, small “what to do,” ‘who’ to be,” “where to go,” “who to go with,” “how to do it” and all of the “directions to get there” type deliveries which would arrive over time. They would, I hoped, come safely padded in bubble wrap given the important and fragile nature of what would be inside for this recipient. If not, how else would you know: “Which way to go in life?” “Which road to travel?” and most importantly, (or so it always seemed) “Who to travel it with?” There had to be some sort of answers and since I’d tried to find them regularly everywhere else and since my head was not coming up confidently with then on its’ own, this seemed like a viable idea.

Back then, the idea of choosing the wrong path in life was terrifying. The idea of options didn’t really come up too often. It was more like “what if I miss out on the day I am supposed to decide and then get stuck in some sort of life holding pattern from then on?” I remember being so confused, so worried. “How do you know?” Where’s the map for your route to Who/What/Where/When/How?

The reality, I found out after many years of travelling down the road I had chosen but being unsure if I’d made a mistake, is that there are no UPS or FedEx deliveries to sign for, but instead encounters with people and places and experiences that create your own unique road map along life’s way. And if you are very lucky, after most of the information about wonderful things to see along the way or hazards to avoid are in place on your maps page, you will find people that want to review it with you and maybe even come along for part of the way.

And so, standing at the crossroads of life when trying to decide which way to go you can either stay paralyzed waiting for a delivery that is not going to come, or you can move on down a road, knowing surely and certainly that your way will be revealed to you. It will I promise.

Keep in mind that after you do get going, either to the right or the left, it is really, really important not to get stuck looking back. Well, at least no longer than the drivers’ obligatory quick glances in the rear view mirror every so often just to make sure no-one is going to cut you off. Seriously, keep your eyes on the road in front of you so you don’t crash. Granted, there will likely be the occasional fender bender along the way. There will of course be the “empty gas tank,” “the oil changes and brake repairs” and “other maintenance and mechanical stuff” as you go, but it will be in taking care of each one of these things that you will be answered. It will all be part of the map you will create. It will be how you develop confidence and experience and will learn how to prioritize and problem solve.

You may pull off the “highway” to re-fuel and encounter a hitchhiker that changes your life. Or maybe the elderly woman that sells you your diner sandwich when you stop for lunch will touch your heart and need a friend. You may connect with the mechanic or buy a lottery ticket inside the station and have the winning numbers. Maybe you will see a billboard touting a profession or course that seems to “call your name.”

All along the way it will all unfold exactly the way it is supposed to, no better or worse than if you’d chosen the other route at the first fork in the road and every other fork thereafter. That’s the secret. That’s what could be wrapped up in a package and delivered to those wanting to know. The secret is that it is all perfect. It is all correct. Every piece and every part of everything you choose. As long as you decide it is going to be. As long as you make the choice with both feet and stay on course. This doesn’t mean that you can’t turn off to different roads once in awhile as you go, because you can, you can re-choose over and over, but do it in truth and surety.

Once you make your choice, keep going and don’t worry what would have happened if you went the other way. The “What If’s” will wear you down, so try to avoid them at all costs. What if I was supposed to pick that college major on Route 55 or the “boy” right off Interstate 99, but I didn’t take that exit? The man of my dreams who may still be standing there waiting for a ride with the filled bandana on the end of a stick as I go zooming down the other path? Then what? (although actually if the man of my dreams was the one hitch hiking with a bandana on a stick I’m pretty sure I’d be OK that I missed him). Or maybe the job of my dreams or the academy award with my name on it is on Highway 17 but there’s no way to get there from here. I can only chuckle, though way back when I would have cried at these thoughts.

Here’s my bottom line, my grace paid forward:

Whatever road you choose, make it a good trip! Know that whatever direction you go at the fork is the one you were supposed to go in, period! End of sentence! Or else you’ll waste time with crippling regrets and trust me they don’t serve! As you get older you realize you’re on borrowed time anyway so you won’t want to waste any unwisely.

Remember, there will always be choices, forks, roadblocks, crossroads. And time after time, just when you are OK in a decision and settled into your travels, just when you have absolutely owned your life direction choice, you will inevitably come to another fork or maybe even one of those rotary’s with three different exits. And there, panic may start to set in. Once again you will have to decide. Remember, once again, whatever choice you make will be the right one.

That’s the thing about life. That’s what Robert Frost understood. And you will sigh, just like Robert Frost did. You will. That’s just the way it is. But you will also, and a lot more often, sing and smile and laugh and dream and accomplish, because that’s what life’s road is all about.

That is until the next fork comes up, or one of those rotaries I mentioned (I still don’t quite “get” those). The thing is I always believed that someday you got a chance to go back and try the other road, but in reality there are so many twists and turns and potholes and speed bumps and new choices to make all along the way that you find yourself busy dealing with them. And because you are so busy with them you forget there was another choice way back there somewhere and that you could have made a U-turn.
Yes, “Way” really does lead to “way” as it says in the poem. Whichever road you choose, whichever way you go, make it a good one.

Ready? Buckle up! Ready, Set, Go!

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