Friday, 14 March 2014

Life as a Poem

This week I had my Modern Literature students study a famous American poem. It has special significance for me these days and is about making choices in life; between two paths which seem a little similar but we choose one and hope to try the other another day, knowing that we are unlikely to. We choose a particular path and this makes a huge difference in our lives. Yet, we think about that Road not Taken so what is this difference between them, in the end? We don't know.  I wonder how it came to be that I inadvertently chose this poem for my class. It was unknown to me a month ago.

Looking back I can see there have been instances of diverging roads and I've tended to take the one most travelled, a false 'safe' path, until 2010. Now, here I am. Recently I've taken another path through the wood, I'm trying to become a successful author and I'm taking the self-publishing route. It's a difficult path where most people sell only 100 copies. I want thousands of my books to sell (at least) and that's going to take help from friends and networks and a truckload of effort on my part.

What's down the path where I don't try to become an author? I assume it's more of the same right now and no hope of advancement, a slow decay fed by disappointment at a lack of options, so I'm giving myself an option. There are no guarantees but it's more open that what I see right now. I need income to survive into old age and I want to help others consider issues and 'feel' their own lives through my writing.

However, the Poem is called the Road Not Taken and so maybe we look back with 'what ifs?" Human nature tends to provide justification later for what decisions we make, especially if the choices are not really clear at the time. We put a positive spin on them.

Choices are frightening, risky things. Sometimes we feel like they aren't really options, just a sort of life or death decision. That's how it is for me these days. The things I decide now at this stage of my life feel as if they ring of 'life or death'. I'm living more on the edge than I have ever done but for me the option of sitting back and doing nothing to move the wheels of the universe is a  slow death. I don't know where this path will lead but along the way I'll be writing books and doing things I haven't yet imagined, and living.

These issues of life choices rang a bell with some of my students as we got to grips with this poem. Some of them have some hard decisions to make themselves and for some of those it was emotional. Here's the poem for you to enjoy, as they did. The video's lovely too.

The Road Not Taken - Robert Frost 1874-1963

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, 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,

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.


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