The road less traveled
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” and that’s twice in almost a year exactly that I’ve started a post off with that line. The title of the poem isn’t the road less traveled, but I’ve decided that for today, that’s the name of the post. I have not had an easy life, some of that was because of birth, but a lot of it was based on the choices I’ve made. While the poem isn’t really about how hard life can be, when I thought of today’s post Frost’s poem popped into my head. Because the road less traveled, fucking hurts.
It felt like a lifetime ago, but for whatever reason this time of the year makes me think of Robert Frost. Last year I discussed the poem and what I thought it meant (here). In my opinion it’s about regret and that was the moral of the topic last year. Maybe I was dealing with a bit of regret myself. It’s been a journey and I feel like I would hardly recognize last years self when compared to now. So much has changed and I definitely don’t regret it, but for whatever reason the poem came back to me today.
I do this to myself, let’s just start off there. The last fifteen years or so didn’t have to be as difficult as I made them. I’ve never been one to do things the easy way, even when the easy way turns out to be the better way. Sometimes we find ourselves going down the road less traveled and when we realize it was the wrong path, it’s too late to turn around. Sometimes the easiest way is through. I’m not too proud to admit that mistakes have been made in the name of taking the road less traveled.
Between my mental health and physical health, if I could let my brain be calm enough, I probably would watch the years pass by in the comfort of my home. See, most days are a struggle and when presented with the choice, I would rather be comfortable somewhere than go out, because I’m exhausted all the time and I hurt, all over. That isn’t a plea for sympathy, it’s just how my life is and computers get built, I start a woodworking project, or I pursue a PhD because of sheer willpower. Literally, that’s all I have. When that runs out I’m just dead to the world.
The question is, why bother? Truthfully, and even as I write this, I’m not sure. I enjoy building things, that’s easy enough to explain away. I love learning new skills and find that the amount of information in the world is overwhelming, but I want to learn as much as I can anyway. That may be why I’m getting my PhD, it makes sense that the pursuit of a PhD would follow a love of learning, but honestly, that isn’t the whole story.
The most honest reason I can think of for why I want my PhD is because of the opportunities I will have to help people. I’ll be able to run my own lab, do the research I want to do, and just generally do my part to make the world a slightly less shitty place than I found it. I want to say I am trying to climb the mountain of knowledge “because it’s there.” But really the ulterior motive is that I don’t like seeing people suffer, or hurt, or get caught in the inaccessibility of the world. I believe it’s everyone’s duty to help, so it would be hypocritical of me to not put forth my best efforts.
That doesn’t mean taking the road less traveled doesn’t have it’s own rewards. Sometimes we do the hard things just to see how we do. Why else would you run a marathon, or climb a mountain, if not to remind yourself that your perceived limitations and your actual limitations can be two very different things. One of the reasons I don’t mind willing myself out of the small existence I find so comfortable, is because it’s a nice reminder that I can. One day that may not be the case, but for now I will plod forward and take the road less traveled. Simply for the satisfaction of doing the hard thing.
And so I can complain along the way, I’m great at complaining.