It began because I was recalling a visit to the US many many years ago when a friend took me to visit the home of the late poet Robert Frost. I knew little of his work at the time but soon grew to love his most famous of poems, The Road Less Taken. This I found for the first time, written on a board at the point where a path through the woods near his home divided into two. In this work, you probably already recall, he reflects upon how he chose which route to take and how it metaphorically reflected the choices he had made in his life. He chose, as a poet, the road less taken – and that he says ‘made all the difference’.
Here is the whole poem for those who don’t know it or who, like me had forgotten all about it.
The Road Not Taken – by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, 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,
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.
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 travelled by,
And that has made all the difference
Now it doesn’t take a genius to see the parallels between this and the choices that face young people and others, at key decision points in life and career. Career has often used the metaphor of a journey but what this poem says I think is a little more interesting.
First of all, at the end of the first verse Frost describes how our horizons are limited by where we are. The traveller cannot see what is around the corner, past the undergrowth, unless he walks down that road a little more. Here surely is comment on the importance of experiencing the working world so that horizons are expanded.
In the third verse he makes a choice and keeps one option ‘for another day’, although he acknowledges that ‘as way leads on to way’ he might not ever get around to trying it. Perhaps some years ago this was true for many young people. Way led on to way in one direction so that ‘doubling back’ was rarely an option. But is that still the case today? In a year where so many young people may not succeed in their application to university, does that mean that they will never have the chance again? Perhaps they will in fact take another option and return to Higher Education after having journeyed down this ‘road less travelled’ and benefitted from all the views and experiences that that might offer. Perhaps they will return to their fork in the road with a better understanding of the journeys on offer and perhaps that will make all the difference.