Robert Frost would have us believe that there are only two paths (according to traditional thoughts about the famous poem). One that everyone follows and the other only a select few traverse. I always wanted to be one of the select few who took the road less traveled.
In some ways, I suppose I am one of those people, trying to make my way down a path that most don’t attempt or perhaps don’t even realize is an option. In other ways, I am following the well traversed path so closely that I am smack dab in the middle.
The path is well-worn, making it safer and easier for me. But life is not binary. It is not this way or that, despite what it feels like sometimes. There are all types of paths. Some are dirt and others paved. Some have tripping hazards and venomous snakes. Some have fences on either side making it difficult to even try another path.
I am grateful to have options.
I used to say, “I am aimlessly wandering through life.” It sounded romantic, like I was wandering through the woods to wherever life took me. Leaving everything up to chance – fate. Except that was false. And not even wishful thinking. I would never want to just wander in the woods with no direction in mind, getting lost and scared of not making my way back to some sort of familiar.
Another option revealed itself when I was looking at photos from a road trip I took and found a picture of a completely straight and narrow path leading up a hill. When I thought about the word “aimless” and how I used it to describe myself despite the obvious path I was walking, I realized there was another option.
I walk the path, but I tend to wander off. I take little side trips whenever I see something interesting. I would never try to new things, take any type of risk, or learn something different if I simply stay on the path. My side trips take me into new territory and out of my comfort zone. They allow me to explore the world and myself, but stay close to the familiar.
Back when I was saying I was aimlessly wandering through life, I should have said I was mindlessly wandering through life. Mindlessly was closer to the truth.
It was a gradual progression. I was on the path and thought I was happy. Content at least. Then I started looking around at all the interesting things that were happening just off the path. Growing less content with the familiar of the path I took my first step off, letting my foot sink into the thick bed of leaves covering unkept grasses. It was glorious, exciting, and challenging. I started spending more and more time off the beaten path, making my own way, stepping over fallen trees and ducking under branches.
These days, I am wandering, exploring, and learning, but it isn’t aimless or mindless. I am being intentional about my wanderings in an effort to not only learn more about the world and myself, but also new skills and to practice and develop old talents I allowed to atrophy.
I walk a path to support my wanderings. The path gives me the stability I need to move among the trees and grasses, immersing myself in the unfamiliar. The goal is to walk among the unfamiliar, spending more and more time there until it becomes the place I stay.