On frequent occasions, Sherry and I have discussed a couple of interconnected and reflective subjects. She even blogged about one of them recently. The ideas of “there” and of what we’ll call “the road not taken”. Everyone plays these games, I think, especially the second one.
“There” tends to have negative connotations, though it can also just be another version of “the road not taken”. “There” is where you were supposed to be – at 20, at 30, at 40. There can be the city you don’t live in, the education you don’t have, the husband or wife you’re not married to, the kids you don’t have, the house you don’t own, the salary you don’t make, the career you don’t have. “There” involves looking back to what you expected once upon a time, and noting that’s not quite how things turned out. “There” can also involve looking around you at what your friends and family and co-workers have, and you don’t. (Granted, you may very well not want what they have.)
The me of “there” is married. I don’t know if she has kids, my suspicion is no. I do know she has pets, especially a dog. I’m not sure what she does for a living, though she has a university degree, and it probably involves the internet, and possibly writing. She gets along well with her family, though she doesn’t see her brother all that much, since they live a ways apart. She makes enough money (as does her husband) to not have to worry about it, and to have a life she enjoys. She reads extensively, travels regularly, and loves her house because it is very much her space, and reflects her taste and that of her husband to a T (and people like to visit). She is fit and healthy, though every now and then a couple extra pounds sneak up on her, but she has a number of activities she enjoys, so a little extra exercise takes care of that. She is very fortunate.
How you didn’t end up “there” has a lot to do with “the road not taken”. Although “the road not taken” requires decision, choice and responsibility on your part, and sometimes life makes the decisions for you. The university acceptance that never came or the school you chose to attend. The job offer that never came or the one you chose not to take. The person who left you or the person you broke up with. That time you thought you were pregnant but weren’t or the abortion you had.
The examples reflect the relative luxury of the nice, middle class life I’ve had. What about the boyfriend who beats you and your kids being hauled off to jail as opposed to sneaking out and hiding at a shelter in the middle of the night, or not leaving at all. Or getting pregnant at 16 and becoming a parent as opposed to giving the child up for adoption or terminating the pregnancy or absolutely refusing in the first place to make certain mistakes that cause you to end up poor, uneducated, and substance-abusing like your parents and everyone else they know. Or to step out of the cocoon of the first world entirely, the roads in front of people in countries where mothers watch their children starve to death, or be gang raped, or tortured, or shot, or see nothing because people vanish in the middle of the night.
My roads not taken are, globally-speaking, pretty mild. They include a history degree at Western, not dropping out of University of Waterloo, losing my virginity to some hayseed from Louisiana, trying to stay in or return to Sydney, attempting to become a good Catholic wife, demanding to be treated as well as I deserve, which would probably have ended an important relationship a lot sooner, choosing friendships with people who can take a lot out of you sometimes, and telling my brother that he could dig himself out of the hole he dug himself into. The Melle of here is a bit less fortunate, but she has a much broader understanding of herself, and of the world, as a result.
I have, from time to time, indulged in a game whereby I have thought of where I could go back to in my life to make different decisions that would affect where I am now. Changing the road traveled to affect how “there” became here. The best option I could come up with would only change one thing, however, and I know that there was more than one road not chosen. And never any guarantee that any alternative me of the here and now would be any better.
So who aren’t you?
The Road Not Taken
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;
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 marked 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 traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
— Robert Frost