The Road Not Taken
I can see Robert Frost’s yellow wood.
In my mind, it’s always Fall and always the golden hour before sunset. A thick layer of leaves blankets the ground and yet every tree is full, as if not a leaf has fallen.
This image has been bubbling up uninvited these past few months. One minute I’m working and the next I’m leaning back in my chair as my mind wanders through a mashup of Van Gogh yellow and Klimt gold and a wee bit of Hudson River Valley, all bathed in amber.
“The road not taken” is the phrase spoken by the unknown voice for the image, kin to “if you build it they will come” for cornfields. Always the same thing. My mind wanders, fighting Frost’s “nothing gold can stay” and thinking about that very golden road.
The teacher who introduced me to “The Road Not Taken” taught that it was about being an individual and taking risks, and marching to a different drummer—and I drank the Koolaid and believed her. Never occurred to me to ask if “all the difference” made by the road taken was really a good thing.
Go back to the poem, and both paths are equally trodden. The one taken wasn’t better or worse. It was different. Nothing in the poem indicates that the other road would have been a bad one to take, yet . . . There’s this notion that not taking it was the right decision.
I’ve been thinking about the roads we travel to share our work and how hundreds of years ago the road was clear, less cluttered vs now, with so many distractions. Is one better than the other? Both are equally trodden, but with different versions of the same problems.
Think about two roads.
One road is post Gutenberg, but also pre-mass communication, before the phone and TV and computer and everything else we have today.
The other road reflects today, with smart phones and smart TVs and smart shoes and all other sorts of smartily smart things.
Road one is rather clear. As time ticks, maybe a billboard starts to pop up. Maybe a car passes and a rest stop appears on the horizon, and other people start to travel the road, and those people share one by one.
The other road is cluttered and noisy. All people on that road do is share and talk and jabber. It’s like navigating through the fog, but on a clear day, with fog replaced by people and images and tweets.
Road one dictates that there are fewer interactions, but when they occur, there’s meaning and they’re remembered.
Road two dictates millions of interactions, but when they occur, they’re insignificant and forgotten. You have to work harder to give and receive meaning.
The road I keep going back to is road one. Less communication. Less clutter.
That road worked for a long time, yet there’s this push to go down a different road. Don’t do what’s been done in the past. Keep looking to the future, to the road yet to be taken.
Maybe instead of traveling toward the next big thing, the better choice is u-turning toward the past and tapping into what has always worked.
Hard work has always worked.
Being honest has always worked.
Doing the right thing has always worked.
Keeping promises has always worked.
Being transparent has always worked.
Creating something of value has always worked.
Starting small has always worked.
Communicating in more than 140 characters has always worked.
Picking up the phone or meeting in person, instead of only texting or emailing has always worked.
For 2019, I’m looking toward a road of doing less of what’s on the cluttered road and more of the clear road, the old road, the one that worked for years. I want to travel both roads, worn really about the same. I don’t want to sigh somewhere ages and ages hence.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And then cut through the woods and traveled the other road, too,
And that has made all the difference.
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