I remember the first time I encountered Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”. I was in 6th grade and Miss Clark had given us the poem to memorize. When I shared this news with my dad, he instantly perked up (let’s face it, elementary school homework doesn’t often elicit parental joy). But this time? Here was his favorite poem — something he could share with his daughter in the form of homework disguised as life lesson. He sat with me as I attempted to commit each line to memory, reciting the verses ad nauseam.
” I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
And it worked. This one line became my compass at pivotal points in life: contemplating college and graduate school options or the difficult decision of whether to accept a position in New York City, try to stick it out in Boston or move back to California. In those moments, I kept coming back to the divergent roads, knowing that the path I chose would have a profound impact on the direction my life would take. The thing is, sometimes it’s easy to see the choice — the two options that lay before you. But what happens when you don’t see the road? What happens when you just feel stuck?
I left New Jersey six weeks ago, Seattle-bound for a memoir writing workshop that most certainly changed my writing life. It was the combination of practical writing advice along with the more ethereal “how to harness your creativity, find your voice and stay true to your passion” advice. I left the Cascades feeling liberating and full of possibility. I wasn’t necessarily dialed into a clear writing direction, but I felt like I was onto something.
Then I went…blank.
The roads were gone and the fork in the road? Vanished.
I stood wading through my own thoughts, unable to articulate what had happened. Attempts to draw strength from my motivational mantra? I grew ornery and despondent: if any road will get you there, but I don’t see a path and everything around me is blurred, how do I move forward? Where’s that poem Robert Frost?
I found the answer in the form of my breath. Unable to think my way out of a paper bag, I focused on the rise and fall of my belly. Being present and mindful, I found my deeply battered, hidden intuition. Emotions quickly followed: fear of failure, doubt in my ability as a writer and shame that I’m 36 years old and don’t have my life figured out (compounded by the realization that I’m too old for a quarter-life crisis and too young for its midlife counterpart). But once I could acknowledge where I was without judgement, I was able to see that I was well and truly stuck. And while it sucked and made me want to crawl out of my skin, I couldn’t wish it away. I had to accept it was there. It is, after all, what it is.
Keeping that phrase in my mind the next day, I sat down to read a book. As I finished a chapter, I felt a small weight release from my shoulders and a spark to pick up a pen and write.
It is, what it is. I still don’t see the path, but I’m trusting it’s underneath my feet. And when I get to that fork in the road I’ll be ready, poem in hand.
Hooking back up with the stellar writers who blog over at Yeah Write.