I took the one MOST travelled by, and that has made all the difference!
The “Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost (1916) is, without a doubt, one of the most popular — yet misunderstood poems ever written. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you have probably seen parts of it posted on social media when one of your friends was trying to be poetic, or on an inspirational poster getting you to embrace your individuality by doing things differently.
“…I took the one (road) less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
And this is where the confusion starts: Did he took the road less traveled by? Did he not? Does it even matter?
We've all faced those moments in life when we needed to take a decision but the availability of so many alternatives made it incredibly hard; both before and after the decision took place. The possibility of missed opportunities (FOMO!) and fear that our own decision will not lead us to greatness always comes to mind. Very recently, I had similar thoughts when deciding whether or not it was worth to spend NZ$300 on an 8-seconds bungee jumping. In the end I did it and boy was it worth it! Funny enough, had I not done it, not knowing where the other path led to, I doubt I would’ve regretted it!
Below is my own analysis of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” which includes quotes from the poem:
I guess every decision in life is hard to take and how I wish the decision was not there. I could experience all the opportunities, but “… sorry I could not travel both…”. However, I must take a decision and any decision I take is “…just as fair…”. I will never know which way is the best, it is not a mathematical problem, there is no exact answer. And so, I rely on heuristics,“…having perhaps the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear;…”. But then realizing that “…as for that the passing there; Had worn them really about the same…” the roads might not be very different. All my thoughts were simply to convince myself that one decision is better than the other.
I took a decision, impulsively or not, maybe it was right and maybe wrong. Then I think again, was it even that important? I can always change my mind, I can always alter my path, “…saved it for another day…”. But is it that easy to do? Without a doubt, it is possible; but how often do we really change paths? When, mid-way our university degree, our career or even our marriage we think that maybe we took the wrong decisions, how easy is it to change? “…yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. …”.
The past, how I love talking about the past. I feel like I am directing my own movie! “… I shall be telling this with a sigh…” . And as I narrate about my decisions, I try to build bridges between moments in my life as if I am trying to solve a mathematical problem, connecting every derivation. But here, well here there is no exact answer! And so I say,
“…I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Upon reading this last line, most jump into the first “cool” conclusion: The author is urging us to take the road less traveled by, to escape the norm and do things differently — this is what is going to make the difference. We tend to relate our status quo with decisions of the past and convince ourselves that those decisions led us to where we are today. Thus, if we were to take different decisions our current situation would differ. But for Robert Frost the decision makes NO difference. It does not matter which way you go nor does he argue for taking one or the other.
We tend to think decisions shape our lives. But do they? — or do we shape our lives around our decisions?
The writer does not reveal whether the decision he took was the right one. Probably he never found out… actually, he has definitely not found out. How could he? How can any one of us really know how a parallel-life where we took another path would play out eventually? Would things be different had I studied a different degree? Chose another career? Probably yes and probably not, but I guess blaming the path is somehow a relief.
With regards to myself, I took the one MOST traveled by, and that has made all the difference!