The road not taken was my first real ‘adult’ experience with poetry. Until then I’ve seen poems as for overzealous people who cherished every brook, fallen leave and moss-covered stone or for the overly in love, singing in praise of their lady. The road not taken was a personal narrative, it told a story from a very critical moment in the poet’s life and knowing that his entire life as a career stemmed from that one risky bargain reinstated the notion of a sentient universe. That somehow things don’t just happen and it’s all part of a grand plan. It is still ’cause and effect’ but the causes always seem rather forced, the events rather too coincidental. It is because of Robert Frost that I tend to take a bit too long to decide every time I’m at crossroads and so far its paid out well.
Since childhood, we are taught to run towards something. Ask any kid what they want to do, and they’ll have a very exciting answer. Ask them how they want to do it, a very sequential plan follows – “I’m gonna finish second grade, then third, then eventually high school, then college then I’m gonna be a fireman.” As if it’s just going to happen back to back like that. Nobody at any point stops to think of the actual timeline it’s going to take to fulfil that particular journey. It works up until we finish school perfectly, we work deadline to deadline, one final exam to the other, there are periodic moments of achievements when we pass a class. Then there are three months left for college begin and we better have our plans figured out. You’re 16, or 17 at best. You can’t drive, you can’t vote, you can’t get married and you can’t be trusted with your own bank account but you are supposed to decide what path you want to base your entire future on. Sure. We make our most educated guess as possible or follow in the footsteps of someone else we look up to. What else can you do? There’s a new deadline now, new target – graduate college. Which we do. Now what? Think of it, the next actual deadline is pretty much death. We just need to pass time until then trying to do all the things we want to do and that is it. That’s the entirety of our life.
Too dark? It’s one of those days. But being so accustomed to running after deadlines, this immediate phase right out of college seems very bleak. There’s a fear of running out on time always at the back of our heads. It is as if there’s something very important that we are supposed to be doing right now like there’s a very important deadline approaching us at full speed, like everyone else is going forward and we’re lagging behind, but take a breath and think of what it is and there’s nothing. As a result, you have a huge number of young adults either slogging away inhumane hours at their job or too terrified to start a job because ‘they haven’t got it all figured out to the dot yet’. Rushing blindly into the dark at full speed for an imaginary sense of achievement that’ll never come, getting depressed like everything is lost at the slightest setback, never appreciating the actual achievements denouncing them as too little and too insignificant. We forget that we are just in our 20s, the average human lives for 79 years and that leaves us thrice as much time left as we’ve been through. I thought it was just me as I’m taking a year off but those of my friends who got into jobs straight out of college seem to feel just the same, a huge impending void of ‘What now?’ Technically this was the end of our plan. School and college are over and we’re making money. This is our big finish, the beginning of our happily-ever-after but somehow we’ve always imagined it to feel much more fulfilling, to be accompanied with a great deal of satisfaction and accomplishment. It’s even scarier to think this is how it’s going to be always. When I post an ‘idk how to adult lol’ sort of Tumblr post on Facebook or Instagram, there are as many likes and laughs from 40-year-olds as are from people in their 20s. ‘The well settled, responsible adult who has his life figured out’ is the most successful urban legend to date. All our fairytales, all our movies and ballads end at either ‘happily ever after’ or ‘and they all died tragically in a tragedy’. The latter is out of the question but I do have some qualms with the former, what do they do happily ever after? It sounds boring and mundane and pointless.
I guess the advent of the internet could be to blame as well. Before, we mostly just had to do well as compared to those in our immediate neighbourhood or family. Now we are mentally competing with 21-year-old CEOs and youtube billionaires from halfway across the globe. We go online and there are hundreds, if not thousands of people who are living our dream life and they are all much younger than us and in that moment of envy, we forget all that we have good going on in our own lives and all that we can focus on is that big bright smile on the face of the kid whose only goal in life seems to sit in beaches with a drink looking at sunsets on Instagram.
I guess given we are clueless about everything anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to take risks at this age at all. We don’t have kids to support, we are not employing thousands of people whose livelihoods will be affected if we make a poor business decision. We are novices for all intents and purposes and we can really afford to make a lot of mistakes. We can now rewrite the mistakes we made when we were sixteen. We still can afford to scrape everything off and restart a whole new career path even a couple of times before we get it right. I had no clue what to do after college and there was too much noise everywhere with companies hiring and colleges announcing their deadlines, so I chose to sit and wait it out. It was scary but Frost came through. Eventually, the roads we take are going to matter but there is no rule regarding how much time we take to make the call. There is still a long way to go before we sigh, look back and elucidate in verse about all the roads that we took and chose not to take. So right now all we got to do is less sighing and more trying out cool new roads if that makes sense.