Life is made up of a series of choices – and who’s to tell if we’re making the right ones? Who’s to know what could have happened – on the road not taken?
I am a firm believer in the idea that most of us (you, dear reader, and myself), living in a “free” world, have the opportunity to make more choices than we can possibly fathom.
And yet, we are made to believe that our path is more or less cleared for us, and all we need to choose are the little details. Everything has already been set out for us, and of course the meaning of life is to buy a house, 2 cars, and have 2.4 children. And spend the rest of your life paying off the debts you really are supposed to have.
Every single day is the first day of the rest of our lives. And every single day, we’re faced with a gazillion choices – most of them are fairly simple, but others are more of a challenge.
The Quest For Happiness
I learned from Gretchen Rubin that happiness is not a goal or a purpose – happiness is in the journey, in the way we get there. So in every choice I make, of course I think about the ultimate purpose of that choice, but I also try to imagine the road that will lead me there.
When I first wrote this post, a good friend had just left us in search of her own road. It led her to a yoga centre in India (the best place to go if you know the answer to your questions lies within you), then back to her home country of South Africa. Ultimately she returned to Spain – only to pack her bags again and leave us for good.
The whole thing has made me reflect a bit – on friendship, on travelling and working in exotic places, but most of all, on fate, choices and crossroads in life.
The Road Not Taken
Some time ago, I read the poem “The road not taken” by Robert Frost; it was embedded in a “ZenPencils” cartoon by Gavin Aung Than. I have been following ZenPencils for ages, but this one really got to me…
Crossroads and Alternate Realities
What the poem tells us is that there are always other roads and alternate realities. What the cartoon shows us is that both roads can be just as beautiful, and both realities just as fulfilling.
Maybe the road we’d like to travel isn’t as easy for one person as it is for somebody else; everyone has their handicaps and talents, and we have to find the best way to put both to work. But the choice is ours – and once we’ve made it, it’s no use looking back and wondering “what if”?
No use regretting what we’ve made of our lives so far. if I’m not happy with it I can either complain or choose to change it. And I’m the only one who can make the change.
Taking A Chance On Doing What You Love
Another inspiration for me was the commencement speech given by Jim Carrey (here’s the link – you might want to skip the first 10 minutes).
There was that little phrase:
You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
The tiny voice in my head had probably already told me that a thousand times, but it took Mr Carrey for me to realise how silly it was to live the life you think will keep everybody else happy.
Somewhere along the way, I made the choice to “pursue challenges as something beneficial, so I could deal with them in the most productive way”. Some people might see those challenges as huge obstacles and choose to avoid them at all costs. So far I have learned that every new challenge has made my life better.
So here I am, pursuing my dream of living off-grid on our own self-sustaining little farm.
Reading and learning all I can so I can put it into practice (the sooner the better). Not even time will tell if I’ve made the right choice; it can only tell me whether I’m happy with the choice I’ve made. (So far so good.)
If there is one thing we can learn from “The road not taken”, it’s that there is no one true and correct road in life. We just make choices, and those choices will lead us somewhere. Would we have had a better life if we had chosen the other road? We will never know.
Until some kind of space-time machine can help us explore alternate realities or see the future, of course.
More Recommended Reading
- I can wholeheartedly recommend “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. Grab it on Amazon or bol.com.
- A surprisingly good read: the 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferris, in which he explores the possibility of taking a lot of time off over the course of your lifetime, vs working yourself to death until you retire. Grab it on Amazon!
- Make Good Art at ZenPencils – with universal wisdom by my second-favorite writer of all time, Neil Gaiman.
Have you ever been in a situation where you had to make a choice between what you really wanted to do in life, and what others wanted you to do? What did you choose?