The Road Not Taken

“…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, The Road Not Taken

Always, it seems, I’ve been of two brains: each of them trying to talk over the other…’til I ultimately yell, “shut up!” (They both skulk off…for a time.)

​I wanted to be a writer.  Truth is, I wanted to be anything but what I was.  In my confused and depraved state of disrepair, having completed a business degree in Finance, I chose a writing fellowship in humanities graduate school over a job in a bank.  My business cohorts thought I’d lost my Wall Street-loving mind!  Had my former capitalistic wits abandoned me? 
English graduates in my new surroundings eyed me suspiciously…like it must be part of some covert sociology experiment, and I – the interloper – would surely disappear one day, never to return.  Young men and women, aspiring to be the next Sylvia Plath or Jack Kerouac, crowed that writing “true poetry” required doing so under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or both (hey, it was the seventies).  They avoided me at poetry readings and slam sessions.  You’d know them instantly:  donning bandannas, soiled jeans that appeared to have survived a wood-chipper, unbathed in weeks…smelling of some strange incense.  Mind you, this was by choice.  Must admit, the allure of living bravely out of a rucksack strangely appealed to me…for a few seconds.  (Took me awhile to figure out the incense part.)  Meanwhile, I was just a dork in relatively clean clothes who wanted to write poetry…even showered most days.  What a rank amateur!
But it was okay…I simply fit no mold – neither the “Biz school” nor the “Bard school.”  T.S. Elliot, the British banker/poet, became my adopted patron saint.  Losing myself in literature of Burns and Yeats, Pound and Percy, I studied the works of the itinerant playwright, Will Shakespeare.  Absorbing further the wisdom of Plato and Aristotle, I learned the literary forms of nineteenth and twentieth century novelists, both American and British.  I attended grad school five days a week, worked nights and weekends in bars and gas stations, ate ramen and was poor.  It sucked, but I was never bored.
Then, I met a girl – at last, a muse to spur my lusty dark side!  She was, to put it mildly, exotic…perhaps eccentric.  But eccentricities alone don’t pay the bills, and she unapologetically told me that she wanted to help disabled children.  I learned that she was actually getting a degree in Special Education; that she’d lost her baby sister to Downs Syndrome; that she’d lost the use of her right eye at birth due to forceps extraction.  She invited me to Special Olympics, where I witnessed amazing people overcoming true adversity.  The more I got to know her, the more I wanted to help her do those things to which she aspired.  Alas, I was in love…dammit!
Fortunately, my grad school advisor and friend – a Deer Clan chief of the Cherokee Nation – set me straight on the distinctions between love and lust; between writing and drunken ramblings; between money and love of money; and knowing the difference between choosing a path and truly embracing it.  His baptismal name was Carroll Arnett.  But he was known throughout the Cherokee nation as Gogisgi.  He taught me to first be authentically myself…and then, choose a path.  It wasn’t that I loved money…I just hated being poor.
So, following a degree and fellowship in Creative Writing, I packed away my reams of unread, unpublished poems, short stories, essays, etc., and took a job with a public utility in Detroit.  That girl I mentioned began her first teaching assignment.  A short time later, we were married…
…and thirty-four years later, I awoke in a hospital, surviving nine hours of surgery that saved my life.  In between, we’d managed – that girl and I – to raise a daughter, live four years abroad, travel half the world, meet amazing friends who’ve been blessings, each in their unique way.  We’ve experienced deep sorrows and profound joys.
Now, I find myself on that other path – where two roads diverge.  I didn’t ask for this, but embrace it…because the question confronts me each day: “What will you do with this new lease?” I am excited to answer that question by sharing with you, dear reader, the experiences of life on that first path.  To do that, I now travel the second.
The American novelist, Bernard Malamud, once wrote, “We have two lives – the one we learn with, and the life we live after that.”  I have such stories to share with you, and breath enough to begin the journey.  Oh, yes, and I still shower…most days.

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