You’re probably familiar with Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, which ends with the famous lines:
But, did you know it’s one of America’s most misread poems?
In the beginning, when describing the two roads, the poet says, “both that morning equally lay.” One road wasn’t “less traveled” than the other; they looked the same.
After choosing a road, the poet exclaims, “Oh, I kept the other for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” This reminds us that we often don’t consider taking more than one road. Or, worse, when we face two roads, we freeze and don’t take either. Once we choose a road in life, we tend to think we have to stick to it forever, so we either freeze under pressure, or we choose one road, get used to it, and don’t take the time to go back and try another.
In the end, the poet thinks about one day telling the story and probably saying, “I took the [road] less traveled by, and that has made all of the difference,” even though the roads really looked the same.
The famous closing lines of The Road Not Taken are often misread and don’t mean that the more challenging roads in life are the better roads. They remind us that when we choose between two roads, one road isn’t always better than the other; they’re probably just different. When we reflect on our choices, we often change the truth in order to justify the consequences, when we don’t need to. If we’re not happy with a road we choose, then we can go back and choose another. We can take the roads not taken.
Here’s the entire poem, if you’d like to check it out.
If you don’t like the road you’re on,
you can always take another.
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