“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, from THE POETRY OF ROBERT FROST: THE COLLECTED POEMS, COMPLETE AND UNABRIDGED, edited by Edward Connery Lathem, New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2002.
From choosing what clothes we wear to the career path we devote our lives to, life will always be full of choices. “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost, is a poem that describes a traveler who encounters a fork in a road in a forest. Presenting him with a choice between two paths, the poem digs deep into the nature of making choices.
“The Road Not Taken” has a melancholy yet peaceful tone to it. Through the description of yellow leaves, I assume that the season is autumn, when vibrantly colored leaves would be falling around the speaker, blanketing the path. The poem has a peaceful sadness emanating throughout, as the speaker laments being unable to experience both roads. In his indecision, he tells himself that he will follow the other path another day, but then adds, “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, / I doubted if I should ever come back.” In the end, he predicts telling the story of his choice with a sigh, wondering what would have happened if he had chosen differently.
Robert Frost wrote this poem for his friend and fellow poet Edward Thomas as a joke, because, on their frequent walks together, Thomas was extremely indecisive about which route they should take. No matter what road they took in the end, Thomas would always regret that they had not taken another path, convinced that it would have led to better sights and better places.
In my mind, this poem is not just about the traveler and his walk through the woods. In fact, picking a path through a forest is not such an important decision. But that decision is a metaphor for many of the life-changing choices people have to make in their “walk” through life. Whether you’re traveling through the woods or simply navigating through life, you have to set your eyes on a destination.
I think the poem is telling us that we should think through all of our options, as it will impact the very direction of our journeys. There’s no point in concocting a million “what ifs.” Every choice you make should bring you closer to that destination. If you’ve made a wrong turn and there’s no going back, just learn from that mistake and stay focused on the destination. Regrets don’t change reality. What will change reality is your determination and how hard you work toward that ideal destination.