Paging through a High School Year Book inevitably among the many messages from the graduating class you’ll see two words “no regrets.” Whether we are 18, or 88, we all long to live a life filled with “ No regrets.” After all, who wants to go about feeling sad or sorry for themselves. While Charlie Brown and Peter Parker have become legendary because of their regrets , in real life, it doesn’t seem too appealing.
You know what other cliché you see tossed around when a new school year starts? Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”. I’m sure you all know it by now as it’s been quoted in books and television, and graduation commencements speeches for almost a century, and it probably will continue to do so.On the off chance that you haven’t, heard it, I’ll share it with you. Even if you have, it’s still worth reading again, even if it has been reduced to a greeting card cliché.
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.
In life we will always meet such a fork in the road, and be left having to make a choice and then enter into a world in which we made one choice or another. The choice to go one school or another or even to not go to school at all. The choice to study or to slack off. The choice in friends we make. The choice in majors and careers. Even our choice in romantic relationships.
Then if those choices don’t pan out as we’d like, it’s hard not to carry our share of regrets. Take it from someone who knows from firsthand experience how quickly it is to pick up that kind of emotional baggage. To put it bluntly, during my first year at college I spent a lot of time following a relationship path that went nowhere. It amounted to a good bit of time and effort wasted that could have been otherwise spent. However, one truth of a dead-end path is that you can always double back to where you came from and get back on track.
It was only after doubling back and following the on right path I forged deep, lifelong friendships, discovered a mentor who would guide me the rest of my time in college and embraced my vocation. Yet as I would continue on that right path it was hard not looking back at that first year and feel a sense of regret. Could my friendships have been stronger, or my vocation discovered sooner had I just gone on the correct path in the first place?
I don’t know. I can’t peer into an alternate universe and see if things could have gone better for me. I don’t regret the school I went to. I don’t regret the good friends I’ve made. But I do forever regret the time I wasted.
To paraphrase Magneto in the film X-Men: Days of Future Past,
“All those months wasted…to have a precious few of them back.”
Don’t waste your time. When presented with those two paths, tread carefully and choose wisely. You won’t get that time back. Because it’s only the right path that will make the difference.