As a literature major, obviously I realize one could analyze many different meanings from the well-loved and timeless poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, but one thing about poetry is that the meanings of works may change for the various readers, and that’s okay. As this school year ended, I found myself becoming even more reflective than usual, as I had never taught seniors before, and of course I knew I was nearing the end of my teaching career. As I sought to do something nice and symbolic, English teacher style, I thought of this poem. I printed out copies and glued them onto card stock with Dr. Seuss illustrations from Oh, The Places You Will Go on one side and wrote a little message for each of my seniors: “Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled.” While I worked on this project, I realized that I am doing exactly what I told my students to do, and I felt proud to not just be someone who says to do something, but I am a living example of actually taking that less traveled path.
The goodbyes were hard with my students, both the ones that were current and the others stopping by because they had heard I was leaving. Explaining why was even harder, but quite a few got it, or at least they got it enough that I know when they look back at it later, they’ll see it clearly. The goodbyes at the last faculty/staff meeting of the year were tough too. Not everyone knew I was leaving before that. Then I had to clean out my classroom. My husband took the day off just so he could be there for me, and so he could be the voice of reason on what I should keep and what I should leave behind for the next teacher. That went much more smoothly than I had expected, until the moment I turned out the lights and I closed and locked the door for the last time. No analogies or metaphors can truly capture what I felt in that moment, so I won’t try. I pried my name plate off the door and that is when the tears came, but just for a moment, because sometimes even when goodbyes are hard, they are necessary. Sometimes they allow us to step off that well-trodden and obvious path in order to take the one where we must forge our own way. But that is how we find out who we truly are.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
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