Roads are like people. You just never know where they will lead. Some take you on long, wonderful journeys with splendid views. Others are just dead ends. But until you explore them, you just never know.
In my youth I was determined to follow, “The Road Not Taken.” I figured Frost had the right idea. My grandmother must have agreed, because she impressed on me early on, NOT to, “follow the crowd.” If I ever said, “Well, everyone else is doing such and such,” it was the best way NOT to get my way. So, taking ‘the road not taken’ inadvertently made me a leader in my peers’ eyes. It also made for a few harrowing experiences.
On a hiking trip with friends we came to a fork in the road. Everyone else opted for the marked route towards the river. I insisted on forging alone a smaller, windy route upwards. Though my path was steeper, and certainly less travelled, I figured that I would beat the others to the waters’ edge.
The path began simply enough but after a few minutes became so narrow and grown with branches and tree roots that I had to get on my knees and crawl upwards a few feet at a time. Finally, towards the top, the trail suddenly widened and was welcoming! In my excitement I quickened my pace on the slippery dirt and slid backwards just a few inches. Had that not happened, my next full step would have been over the abrupt edge of a cliff that dropped several hundred feet into the rushing river.
Instantly, my body went limp, yet my heartbeat raced wildly in my chest. I was so close to the edge that I could not even turn and retreat. There wasn’t enough ground. A dizzying fear kept me from looking down again. Any lean forward would veer me over the edge. Barely breathing, I backed up inch by agonizing inch.
Now don’t get me wrong. I still find myself off the beaten path most days. But ever since that particular afternoon, I’ve always kind of figured it’s not really the road you take that matters; it’s what you do while you’re on it. And, knowing how “way leads on to way,” you’re not likely to get a second shot at your journey. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. (Helen Hudson is the author of, “Kissing Tomatoes.” http://www.helen-hudson.com).