Today, I became a better person. Just because I decided. I spent my morning at a Community Leaders lunch with the Chester County Communities That Care program. I listened to amazing people share their stories and their reasons why they are involved in this awesome program that gives back to our community’s youth in ways I never even knew. It’s not always easy to stand up in front of a group of people and admit your weaknesses. But I had an opportunity today to listen to Christopher Kennedy Lawford (actor, author, activist, leader) speak about his trials and tribulations growing up as a drug and alcohol addict and it moved me. I took the time to speak to him one on one, to thank him for taking time out to come to Downingtown, Pa today and for his path to cross mine. I know meeting him was supposed to happen today. Today I became a better person.
See, most people take the easy way out. Me included. So often, it is easier to just do what everyone else is doing. To say nothing, to sit idly by and cheer from the stands. It’s easier to not admit you are human. It’s easier to not show your vulnerability. It’s easier to sit, stagnant, and wait for something to come along to make you have to change direction. It’s easier to just be. And whatever happens, will happen. I, too, have heard myself say that often. And we leave things up to chance. We think fate hands us whatever we get. And while sometimes we aren’t in control of what happens to us, we are ALWAYS in control of how we react to it. Sometimes, we take the road with all the traffic, where everyone else is stuck to. And we curse the fact that we aren’t moving anywhere, that there are too many cars on this road. And it was our choice.
Other times, we would rather be on the dirt path that no one else knows exists, just so that we can keep moving. We take the road less traveled. We explore, we find new ways. We blaze a trail. We become better people.
I watched my (and yes, when I invest myself into a team, they become mine too ;-)) UHS LAX girls play a tough game last night. I watched the emotion after the game. I watched them all make choices. We talked today about how this is a pivotal and critical choice, a defining moment as an athlete. This is when they decide to pick themselves up and fight again or they can lay there defeated. Still. No movement… easy way out. Stuck in traffic with everyone else. Or we take the road less traveled. I know what they are going to do. I am excited to see them blaze a trail. They have all the tools they need to become better players.
When I was in college at the University of Delaware, my “senior seminar” class was with one of my all time favorite professors. You had to apply to get in, and had to write a thesis at the end of the semester and present/teach a class in order to graduate. As an English major with a concentration in journalism, I LOVED creative writing. Poetry was my favorite. When I saw my favorite professor was the moderator for the class, I quickly applied. I submitted some of my work and the essays needed to show you could understand the writings of some of the greatest poets of all time. We spent a lot of time in that class talking about some of my favorites. My thesis was a comparison and contrast of a Dylan Thomas work and an Emily Dickinson piece. He told me no one had done the two I chose before. I liked that. No one had gone before me. I got to blaze the trail. And while it was hard and there was no one to help me, I got to set the standard. There was no one who could have been better than me up until then. Kind of a great spot to be in if you ask me.
We spent the whole few weeks prior talking about Frost and allof his more obscure poems. Then, we got to this one. “The Road Not Taken.” I don’t think there are many people in my world at least who have not heard it. The funny thing is, since all 11 of us in the class had read it a thousand times and certainly seen it in prior English and poetry clases, we figured it would be a quick discussion and we would move on. We were wrong. There was nothing quick about Gibbons Ruark. He was a man of his own tempo. He walked into each poetry class and stood in front of the room until it got quiet. He would then recite a random poem. So beautifully every time. I lived for the beginning of class. To hear his awesome voice, his scruffy and sometimes unkempt self. He was poetry. He didn’t care what people thought or who may have snickered when he walked by. He was Dr. Ruark, and anyone who knew him, loved him.
Our discussion lasted for 2 different 2 and a half- hour classes. On that one poem. The one we all thought we knew and understood. He made us see other things. He gave us a choice to see what everyone else saw, or to take another look at it. A deeper look. A road less traveled.
I think what Dr. Ruark and even Robert Frost wanted us to learn was that no matter good or bad, every choice will make a difference in your life. You most likely will miss out if you choose one over the other, but “as way leads onto way” we move on, and we can’t focus on the things we didn’t do… the paths we didnt go down. He showed us in that class that sometimes, things aren’t always what you think.
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” –Robert Frost
And so it is. We choose how we react. We choose our path. We choose what we can control. And the rest we let go.
We can’t worry about the paths we don’t take. We can only focus on the ones we do. We can be true to who we are and we can honor our own humanity by acknowledging our mistakes and imperfections. There is beauty in that. And in that beauty, we become better people.
There is strength in taking the road less traveled. Join me.