“The hardest thing about the road not taken is that you never know where it might have led.”Lisa Wingate
This is another universal truth we all live with. Opportunities we let go for one reason or another. In that moment, we decide to take a different path and are left with the “road not taken.” Some of those roads not taken are insignificant and while we are aware of them, we pay little attention to them. Others seemingly haunt us and can lead to living life in the past full of regret if we let them.
There is a song called “You don’t know me” that was written by Cindy Walker in 1955 and recorded by several artists throughout the years. It is a timeless classic to be sure…and it haunts me (in a good way) because it reminds me of my “road not taken.” Take a listen before reading on because it will set the tone of what I’m talking about.
My road not taken is one of unrequited love. I was in my late teens. He was a few years younger than me and he was beautiful, stunning creature. Western European descent, he was tall, dark wavy hair, deep beautiful eyes and a warm, even naive persona. He was athletic and outgoing, and I loved being around him. A simple gesture from him made me feel special and wanted. It was intoxicating. It’s crazy what we remember many years later but for example, one time while talking in a group of friends at school he put his hand on my shoulder (I forget why). The feeling was electric and raced throughout my entire body. I may not have shown it in that moment, but I was paralyzed. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t move. I was lost in that intoxicating moment where the world suddenly stopped.
We spent lots of time together as friends. Watching movies, going to sports activities, driving around town, hanging out with friends and whatever. We would have water fights at my house and get soaking wet and then clean everything up. My mother knew of course that we had water fights and was annoyed but didn’t say anything about it. There were times that he would lay his head on my lap or would be tender with me in some way. I reasoned to myself that this is what “best friends do” but after years of reflection realized I was completely in love with him but unable to acknowledge it.
The scenario that goes through my head routinely is this. We were sleeping in my tent trailer in the backyard one night and he brought over a girl to fool around with at about 2AM. I was “sleeping” in the other bed, very upset and eventually stormed out of the trailer claiming, “I have to work in the morning” and “how could you be so inconsiderate.” I marched to the front of the house, sat on the front steps and stewed about how upset I was. His companion left, and he sat beside me on the step. He was gentle and warm and questioned why I was so upset. I couldn’t say it then, but I was upset because I was in love with him. I so desperately wanted to lean over and kiss him in that moment but didn’t have the strength to do it “because” I reminded myself, “I’m not gay.”
These intense feelings drove me crazy. I entered a time of depression, I would stalk him at his house or drive around the city just to see what he was doing. It was insane.
It wasn’t until many years later that I was able to identify that I was in love with him and of course by then, the opportunity had long past. So, I am left with the question of “what if…” To be honest, I think I spend way too much time thinking about this, but I have come to a place of acknowledging this experience as a cost of my fear and insecurity and how I don’t want to give in to this fear any longer. It is in some way a part of the courage I found to accept myself as I am.
Roads not taken are a universal experience. We made decisions throughout our lives, big ones and little ones, that have implications on the path our lives will take. While I do live with some regret with this situation, I am aware that my life has unfolded as it needed to and so I honour that part of me that missed the opportunity but celebrate the life that is. In a round about way, this experience makes me stronger.
“What we found on the roads that we traveled is now known to us, for it is this that has comprised the contents of our life. What was to be found on the roads that we did not take, however, is not known to us. Those untaken roads contain the experiences of our life that have remained unlived. In one sense they are now beyond us, like river water that has flown out to sea. But in a deeper sense they still contain many possibilities of life that are still present and available to us; it is these that we now have the responsibility to explore.”- Ira Propoff