The Road Not Taken

Two Roads Divereged...

Two Roads Diverged…

In a cruel twist of irony, I, who have not even dipped a toe into a pool, ocean or lake for years, have a bad case of swimmer’s ear. ‘Splain me that, please. I also have a generalized upper respiratory infection (I never do anything halfway, no sir) and am on nasty antibiotics, so not much running for me this week.

Hiatus from exercising doesn’t have to mean hiatus from blogging, though, so I thought I would use my downtime to relay a little fable.

Once there was an avid runner. Let’s call her Tina. For her whole life, Tina was a “Road Often Taken” person. Rebel, she was not. She once was even overheard lamenting the fact that she never went to Catholic school, leaving her deprived of a whole universe of ridiculous rules to learn and follow. Forger of a unique path? Ummm, no. Tina was one of those people who actually liked the conventional. It felt comfortable to her, not because of overbearing parents or an unaccepting society, but because she wasn’t a water-tester the day she was born, and that simply never changed. She wasn’t humorless and wasn’t without ability to bend or ignore some rules for the sake of a good time – heck, she was known to ignore many a rule in pursuit of a good time – but “alternative” was an adjective that was never used to describe her.

One day, Tina went for a long run, and comfort-zone tester that she was trying to become in her 40’s, she decided to head off of her route and just run without a plan. Not a big deal for many, but had Tina been in therapy at the time, it probably would have counted as some kind of psychological breakthrough for her. She pretty much did everything with a plan.

At one point, she came to a fork in the road- yes, two roads diverged! Just like in the poem! – and she was faced with a decision – take the path on the left, which she had driven down before and led somewhere she knew? Or take the path on the right – a new road, that headed who knew where? Our trying-to-break-out-of-her-comfort-zone heroine decided to take the Road Less Traveled (less traveled by her, anyway). And guess what happened? After a mile of twists, turns and hills, it ended at the beach. It was a dead end. Let us pause to consider the symbolism.

Despite the fact that it was 10 degrees colder at the beach and she was not prepared to run on sand, Tina decided to roll with her unconventional moment and sprinted across the half-mile of beach to get to the road on the other side. Once she successfully crossed the beach, she realized that (1) the road she thought she saw on the other side was a mirage, (2) she was actually at the tip of the peninsula, and (3) there was no way out except to backtrack across the sandy beach and up that twisty, turny, hilly Road Less Traveled. So, turn around she did, and slowly made her way, face chilled, calves screaming and hamstrings crying, across the beach and up the torturous road to familiar territory. Thus ended Tina’s brief experience with the Road Not Taken.

There are two (perhaps conflicting?) morals to this fable:

1. Some people are not “Road Not Taken” people. It’s ok. You might never serve as the basis for a grunge song or coming of age movie, but it doesn’t mean you are without worth. Get out of your comfort zone in ways that feel right to you. If running a new route is as crazy as you want to get, go with it. You don’t need to shave your head or quit your life to be interesting.

2. On the off chance that you decide to take the “Road Not Taken,” it doesn’t mean you will face disaster. It does mean that you will face the unexpected, which can sometimes translate into a happy accident. Thanks to the dead end road that Tina ran down, she ended up running the longest distance of her life, and felt pretty psyched afterward.

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8 thoughts on “The Road Not Taken

  1. Laughing. And laughing and laughing. Thankfully I happen to adore the Heroine and fully recognize how big of a deal that was to her. That Heroine is something I tell you. 😉 Sometimes I am an absolute Road Not Taken Runner. But when that happens too much it becomes The Dreaded Chore which I have become to despise. I have evolved into a Road Not Taken Runner and that,,, has made all the difference.

    Here’s to getting out of your comfort zone! {Clink!}

    Like I need an excuse to toast….;-)

  2. Awesome…I call me girlfriend the habitual rule abider…I use to try and push her limits because I feel like everyone needs to experience this but recently I have found that her idea of boundaries are much different than mine. I am the ultimate, “lets go for a 12 mile run and take this street, or maybe this one, I will figure it out when I get there and it will be interesting no matter what, after all I will get 12 miles in either way and I won’t die” type of person…she is the calculated planner who would fear ending up dead on the side of the road from dehydration if she took the wrong street because she wouldn’t be able to find her way back. I could have benefitted from this entry more about a year ago but now I completely get it…she tests her boundaries in her own way and I have learned to accept this and embrace it. I always get such a great feeling when she tests her law abiding nature…I got her to j-walk illegally a few times the past year…its awesome to watch her run across the street when there are no cars coming and she could easily walk…it cracks me up. THANKS FOR SHARING!

    • I know your girlfriend well, as she is clearly my long lost twin. I actually jaywalk quite a bit (grew up in Boston; it’s a sport there), but I do stop at stop signs on my bike even if it is 6 AM and no one is around. Old habits die hard.
      I did fail to floss on Saturday night – too worn out from playing in the snow – and my teeth didn’t immediately fall out, so thus far, my forays into living on the edge have worked out ok for me. Don’t want to push my luck, though. 😉

  3. Love it! Being a teacher, first born child, type A, and perfectionist, everything must match kind of woman, it is good to be reminded that taking “the road less traveled” doesn’t have to be scary. Even if it’s only running without my Garmin from time to time, rules were made to sometimes be broken! Thanks for the reminder.

    • People who get to know me are always surprised when they learn that I am not a first born. I’m actually the middle child of 5 kids, but obviously failed to get the memo on how to behave! Slowly but surely, I’m testing different comfort zone limits. If you told me 2 years ago that I would run the warrior dash and crawl through mud and barbed wire, I would have thought you were nuts. And lo and behold, it was one of the best times I had last year!

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