Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Path not Taken

Do you ever think about the choices you made and how your life might have been if you or someone else had chosen otherwise? Who would you be today if, at one or another crossroads, you had taken the 'other' path?

It's come to my mind because of doing the self-portraits which ended with eleven, but one which I didn't share in that blog because it wasn't me but instead the 'me' who might have been.

I don't think it's beneficial to look back with regrets for choices that I made, but I do see it good to ask myself if I am doing today what I want and being true to the woman I am. Anything in the past was part of what made me who I am, but I am concerned today to be a woman who follows her instincts, not the crowd.

Probably some people never wonder what their lives might have been if they had studied that particular career in college or hadn't taken that job. Or if they had moved to that city when they wanted to. What if they had married when young or hadn't? It doesn't change today to think on why we made such choices and where it has landed us. It might change tomorrow.

Being in my 60s, one thing I can say is crossroads don't stop happening. When young, I would have thought by this age, I'd have it all worked out, a plan to the end. Maybe some do. I don't. I see there are always things coming along that could voluntarily change it all and it's my choice again and again if that happens. For today's elders, there are far more options than in the past-- second careers, divorces, moves and that doesn't count the times a change is forced through health, disaster or someone else's decisions.

Some old-age choices have remained the same-- like where do we live as we become less mobile-- but there seem to be more options. Do we move to a retirement facility? Do we get medical treatment that could prolong our life but perhaps not its quality? Is it too late to go back to school? Do we listen to the wisdom of others or follow our inner voice? Where years ago, it was our parents telling us what we should do, now it might be siblings or the kids. Where it comes to our culture, do we buck the trends or go with them?
From what I can tell, crossroads stop when life does. Not that we have all the choices we had at twenty but there still are paths we can take or not.

When Robert Frost wrote the poem, The Road not Taken, he ended it with some great lines, and I think they are something to think about at any age.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.

Why do so many of us take the road 'most' traveled? Some might be wanting to fit in but some is probably fear of failure, fear of the unknown, not wanting to stand out as different. It seems safer to go the easy road-- or what we think will be easier. We might get lost on that unbeaten pathway. If we have a dream and it's a big one, it might fail.

In the film, The Notebook, part of why the young woman's mother is so worried her daughter will choose poorly for a mate is her own experience. She'd had a love that was not acceptable to her parents and who they convinced her to leave. She married the 'right' one, had wealth and security, but also spent the rest of her life watching the 'wrong' one from a distance. Was her decision to choose as she did a mistake? Can't really say that but the daughter chose otherwise-- and it made all the difference.

I don't believe the lesson of Frost's poem is simply purposing to go against what others have done nor refusing to listen to wisdom from family or friends. I think it is instead listening but with heart and mind also open to our own inner voice. I think it's about at all times being willing to think outside the box. It's not relying on what someone says we 'should' want or think.

With the wisdom of age should come the realization we can't live our life for anyone but ourselves. Sure, we can let fear of the unknown engulf us, live the life others want for us, but that is not the road least taken.

(My computer painting was inspired by an oil painting I saw a few years ago, of a woman bathing in nature with two pintos protecting her. Wish I remembered the painter's name. I think her inspiration was a classic painting from even farther back but cannot remember it either. The angles of the woman's body, the protective caring of the horses stuck in my mind and seemed appropriate to show one road I didn't take-- yet. Although I must admit, in my version, those horses look as likely to be taking advantage of the woman's distraction to take a romp as to be guarding her-- part of the risk along the road less traveled.)


Dick said...

A thought provoking post, Rain. I think making plans is a good thing but you also have to remember the random factor that we can not control yet it affects everything. Don't be surprised if you have to fine tune your plans as they play out.

I think what Frost is saying is listen to your heart. If you really want to take the road most traveled, then by all means do so. But don't be afraid of taking the other one just because most people don't. Thank God we are not all alike, so there are many different paths to happiness. What works for me likely will be a bit different for others.

Mary Lou said...

I took the most traveled, and have always wondered what would have been down the less traveled one if I had had the courage to take it back then.

And you are right, it is never too late. I am in a bit of a pickle right now, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, And hopefully I can go back to school and persue that weed grown path!

Alan G said...

Good Morning Rain,

Your post today really struck a chord with me. I could write much on this subject but will try to be somewhat brief. As many of you, I grew up listening to people commenting on how they wished they had done this or that, or how bad they wanted to do something but one thing or another restrained them from making such a decision. It took a while to understand the full meaning of those comments but when I had reached my mid-twenties I was beginning to understand those passing comments. By my early thirties I had secured an excellent paying job with good security so all seemed to be going well.

But I had, in addition to my real job, always enjoyed being a part-time musician playing here or there. I soon began to think, “Well, why don’t I just quit my job and start playing for a living since it is what I love to do. Besides its fun and doesn’t seem like it is work at all. I can do alright on the money I make.” And in the midst of trying to make this “huge” decision and perhaps not a very wise one, I had what I considered a profound thought….

“When I am sitting on the porch of the nursing home fifty years from now in my rocking chair I do not want to be sitting there spending my final days whining about what I wish I had done or wondering what would have happened if I had done this or that.”

So….I did it. Now let me say this. I was single with only myself as a responsibility and that plays a “major” part of even being able to make such decisions. I wasn’t rolling in the dough by any stretch and was making much less than at the job I left, but I was making it okay. But only six-months into this life that many only dream about came “the awakening”. I found that this life wasn’t all that much fun. Spending all day long in motel rooms while playing four hours a night. No real home and so boring. And if some of you men are thinking about all the female “perks” that goes with that lifestyle, your wasting your thought processes. The enjoyment was gone. So I went back and got my old job back.

Ten years later I took up photography which started as a hobby and I got involved in it deeper and deeper. After a period of a few years decided that this was the life for me. Having the same job with even more security and making even more money but being true to myself….I quit my job and opened a photography business. And right on schedule, in about six-months here it came - “the awakening”. Running your own business was damn hard work and a pain in the ass. I wasn’t making all that much money and was working 12 and 14 hours a day. When I was working for somebody else I didn’t have to worry about all this crap! Once again - the enjoyment was gone!

So….back I went once more to my old job. And I was very fortunate that I was able to do that so don’t think I took that lightly. And it was at that point in my life that I had learned something that would make the rest of my life and career still the waters within me. Seldom apparently is the grass greener on the other side of the fence. It looks greener because you want it to look greener or you have convinced yourself that it must be greener.

I had done all the things I had wanted to do. But as it turned out, I found out that those things that had dwelled within me, eating at me, were not at all what I thought they would be. Because I had done them my life was much more fulfilled for sure, regardless of the outcome. And that “profound” thought I had about sitting on the porch of the nursing home will ring true because I will have no remorse for my life’s decisions. At least with regard to my career choices. But I was able to “follow my dream” because of limited responsibilities. If I had been married with two or three children, then today I would have been sitting here wondering what my life would have been like if I had done this or that.

robin andrea said...

This is a wonderful post, Rain. I like the painting very much. I think the paths we have not taken, but still call to us, are as much part of us, as the roads we've taken that have long since gathered dust. I often think of the paths I've taken, and the ones I did not. They are my life and longing.

Parapluie said...

The painting is very juicy and dramatic. I wonder why the woman is bathing. Is there another rider who might be bathing also? Very mysterious like the question; what if took the other road in our own lives? Or do the horses symbolize the accepted and the unaccepted course of action?

Rain said...

Everyone had good additions to this original thought-- as usual.

Parapluie, you have a wonderful imagination and got something from that painting I hadn't thought of. I think you are right and the guy is over along the bank unseen because of the horses *laughing* oh and he looks like.. well I'll leave that up to other imaginations...

Natalie said...

I love the painting - reminds me of some of Gauguin's Tahiti paintings, especially the nude figure.
I always took the road less travelled or rather, many of its sidetracks and byways. Sometimes I think I should have stuck to the straight and narrow just long enough to acquire some kind of security and then swerved off. But sometimes I think the opposite.

Rain said...

Interesting Natalie that you did that. Maybe no matter what we did, the other road is the one we will wonder about. Not necessarily to think we should have done differently but just wondering how it'd have been. The key is following your instincts is what I believe but that isn't easy to do for some of us. And many of us were raised to distrust instincts-- that they will lead us astray. It takes a long time to get back to where we can even hear the true inner voice of ourselves sometimes.

And thanks for the comparison to Gauguin in that period. I do love his work :)

Ingineer66 said...

The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. Some people always want to find out. Some are content with their lives as they are. The trick is to find the correct balance.

Autumn said...

Very interesting post. I know there are many things in my own life that make me wonder if I should have taken a different path. Then I stop and think what if I had. I know I would be a different person than I am now, and the bottom line is I like me. I like who I am and what I feel, and if it is because of where I have been then so be it..Hope that makes sense..

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.