The Road Less Traveled, Revisited

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I’ve been thinking about choices today. We all know Robert Frost’s take on making decisions based on which choice is easier–you’re a slacker if you do. OK, well, maybe not a slacker…but surely Bobby F would think less of you if you did take that road on the right. And, sure–taking that sketchy, overgrown road “made all the difference” in his life; good on you, Robert.

But, as I mentioned, I got to thinking today, after a passage from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge caught my attention. It read as follows:

It’s a toss-up when you decide to leave the beaten track. Many are called but few are chosen.”

Well said, Mr. Maugham. And, even better put:

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I see no problem with taking risks when charting the course of your life–it’s how we grow, and learn, and do that whole adulting thing. But there is surely something to be said for taking measured risks. Looking before you leap. Testing the waters. Having a backup plan.

I believe there is a fine line between making risky decisions based on careful consideration, and plain old recklessness. No matter how much thought you may have put into making an unpopular choice, someone out there will call you on it–label it as immature, or unreasonable, or irresponsible, or just plain crazy…and they may even end up being right, which is an outcome you’ll have to reckon with if and when it happens. If you’re one of those people who really doesn’t care what other folks think, then this will not be a real problem.

But if you’re like me, then you do care…which means you base many of your decisions on this fact. Which, in turn, means that you’ve probably been sallywagging your way down that well-traveled option for most of your life. And THAT is why it is so bloody hard to step off of that stupid conveyor belt. What will everyone think if I quit my job to write full-time? So, to silence that inner nay-sayer–the one that tends to try and squash any risk-taking before it even happens–I try and anticipate all of the “But what about…” questions that will surely follow any such pronouncement, and have ready-made answers. Folks may not be satisfied with my answers–but that’s not my problem. It’s theirs. I like to think they are secretly jealous of my free-spirited, devil-may-care attitude (although, if they know me at all, there’s no way they’re thinking that. Can you say “anxiety-ridden control freak?”).

Anyhoo, that’s what I’m thinking about today. And now it’s time to stop thinking–and just write something.