A road less traveled. That would be this post. I’ve had one driving thought and it’s taken me days to work out how to get through to getting there. More on that later…
Long a literary lighthouse of mine, the actual title of Robert Frost’s famous poem is, The Road Not Taken. Not taken, less traveled, tomato, tomaeto, but let’s not call the whole thing off just yet.
Frost wasn’t a popular guy in his circles. His work didn’t generate a lot of respect from some of his peers. Many sneered. And in return, living up to his name, he sneered back. Today not much has changed. Haters gonna hate.
A proponent of Pop culture complains, “I took the road less traveled and now I need a map”.
A tourist says, “The road less traveled is that way for a reason. I’ll take pavement every time. It’s easier on your car”.
Letting all of that go in one ear and out the other, Vincent Van Gogh counters, saying “Normality is a paved road: It is easier to walk, but no flowers grow on it”.
Hardly ‘normal’ myself, I’ll go a step further and say, “Any thing beautiful in this world or worth doing never needed a map or road to make them more so. If they are those things, you’ll find them.”
Proteus didn’t need roads at all. He had been on Poseidon’s payroll long before Dory came along. His job description? Herd the creatures of the sea. Seals, whales or Yellow Tangs – if you saw a group of them, chances were pretty good Proteus was somewhere in the neighborhood. But you could never be sure. Why?
I like to think of him as one of Greek mythologies best ‘First Responders’. He understood that waters’ power sourced from being able to change forms, handle the situation and never stop being water in the process. Character.
On the other hand, Frost winked at Life’s jokes of luck or fate while he listened to his contemporaries blame their lot in life on all kinds of things. It reminds me of the kid who stayed up all night watching scary movies and pointed to their alarm clock as the reason they were late to class.
I think what Frost was really trying to say was the decisions we make aren’t nearly as important as the fact that we make them and do our best to see them through. It takes courage to be free-moral-agents. Choice.
Proteus and Frost saw the same calculations at work in the Cosmos. At the end of the day, water finds its way back to the Sea and if we’re paying attention, we end up where we need to be.
Me? My adventure continues.
In earlier scribblings, I have alluded to feeling stuck in the kind of job I used to love but one whose joy had left the building with Elvis. I vividly remember the early November morning when a thunder-bolt sat me straight up out of bed. “You’re not a youngster. You know what your heart is asking for. If not now, when? If not your dream, who’s?”
There are no puppy tails or rainbows involved when such a stark realization slaps you awake to the fact you’ve been heading down a road you don’t want to go. It scared me to the core. Had I confused following my heart with allowing myself to drift into the doldrums with windless sails? How had I not recognized the quiet slide in my own course?
But enough. It was what it was. So I sat up, looked up and choose a different road.
I knew what I had always loved doing for a living. I’d done it. But it had been awhile since I had. I wasn’t current. Being dropped in the center of the intersection of Now and What Next, I scoured my horizon. It didn’t take long before the marketplace reminded me there’s one thing many Human Resources folks like more than a winning lottery ticket. It is someone in a new job who had done exactly the same thing in their last job.
I get it. They were being risk-averse. With no wish to rock any boats or open their organizations to ‘risk’, “we’ve always done it this way” makes the well trodden road an easy choice.
But it wasn’t my road.
So I came up with a battle plan, threw Fear overboard and went back to school. I backed up the depth of my experience by earning the certifications those in my profession hold dear. The strategy was simple. Not only can I show my track record in having “been there, done that”, but I’ll have certifications to back up my assertions about me and my tool box. Graduation day.
My map had taken me to where I wanted to be. I’ll be working inside the week!
Recently I was sitting in an interview with Marion. Marion struck me as an HR pro who’d been working her craft for as many years as I’d been working mine. The vibe was good. I understood what they needed. I had laid a good value-add foundation of meeting their parameters and bringing more in the process. My proposition was “Bet on me. I am the risk-free investment. I work harder and smarter than your average bear.” Yes Boo-Boo, I remember smiling as the thought crossed my mind, ‘Who hires a carpenter with only one tool in their box?’.
[Cut back to the interview]
“So are you an analyst or a manager?”
I needed this job. I was running out of time and money. Ready to perform my touch-down dance, I got good eye contact and in a measured quiet tone replied, “Both”.
My value proposition wasn’t lost on Marion, but her eyes read ‘perplexed’. Mustering all my courage to squelch any and all of my Irish tendencies, I kept silent. The next move was hers.
“I understand what you’re saying, but our form only allows me to check one box. Dan, which one are you?”
Instantly I knew Marion knew I was asking to join an organization who wasn’t good at Change. For her part, Marion knew I knew that the breeze of adaptation hadn’t graced their forms since 1994. In front of my very eyes, the opportunity turned to sand.
I am not a box to be checked. Whatever bill-of-goods I might try to sell myself, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy or challenged by going back to a road that was no longer mine. Paying her the respect she was due, I chose to tell the truth.
“I was drawn to your organization because I wanted to help solve your problems, not be one.”
Ever the pro, she smiled.
In that moment, she knew I had returned the favor by picking up on what she had laid down. After another minute or two of small-talk, we shook hands and I was on my way back to the car.
Pausing befoe I put the key in the ignition, I stopped for just a minute to take stock of what had just happened. “What have I done?”
Another job opening…another miss. And then, it happened again. What was going on? I had chosen my road in order to follow my calling. I had a good plan and worked it well…for nothing? Fear climbed back up into the boat. My carefully chosen road looked blocked. I was feeling the fool.
“Make every effort to change the things you do not like.
If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking.
You might find a new solution.”
It’s taken a few weeks to work this all out in my soul, but I got there.
The road behind me hadn’t changed. The whole point of going back to school hadn’t changed either. I know my objective. My dream remains the same. None of it had changed. I had.
All of which brings me to the front steps of the Road Less Traveled Fan Club Hall of Fame (RLTFCHF). As I climb the stairs, I read what Dolly Parton had spray-painted on the wall:
“When you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving a new one.”
There it is. No matter what they might look like at the moment, all roads are the same. They’re roads. It’s all they know how to be. They also know what makes them great is when they’re yours.
When I thought my road had gone dark, I forgot Love never gets lost. It finds a way. It has an uncanny knack for paving new roads and it won’t quit until it finds a way.
A road less traveled? You bet. But it’s new, it’s mine and I’m getting closer to where I want to be. Once I checked my pride at the door, I followed Proteus’ example and adapted. I had multiple offers in the space of a week. They aren’t the exact job descriptions I had imagined in the beginning, but they all have road good enough to get me where I want to go.
Life is all about the journey. But what you learn about yourself in the process isn’t on the main road. It’s in the detours…working out how to get through to getting there. Sojourner here. See you out there. Over and out.
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Road Less Traveled (Syria) by Reuters (SOURCE): UNICEF: http://www.vosizneias.com/157845/2014/03/11/syria-among-most-dangerous-places-on-earth-for-children-unicef/; Proteus: By Jörg Breu the Elder (c. 1475–1537), of Augsburg as displayed in the Book of Emblems by Andrea Alciato (1531) as Emblema CLXXXIII (emblem # 183). See Proteus attribution below; Robert Frost: https://dan4kent.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/279ed-frosrobertt.jpg; Einstein and the Road Less Traveled: https://dan4kent.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/b7806-a20road20less20traveled.jpg; The Road Less Traveled (SOURCE: Author: anomalyadventures, A WordPress blogger at Adventures with gastopaesis – https://adventureswithgastroparesis.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/the-road-less-traveled.jpg); Peanuts and the Job Description by Charles Schultz: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/dd/df/65/dddf65f0d36743d31a42fe560f3fc655.jpg; Maya Angelou (SOURCE): http://blog.sandglaz.com/6-maya-angelou-quotes-guide-business/ Oprah Winfrey Master Class Series – Maya Angelou from oprah-master-class-3-1024×575; Dolly Parton “Paved Road” Quote: https://behappy.me/poster/if-you-dont—like-the-road–youre-walking–start-paving–another-one; Robert Frost: The Most Misread Poem in America by David Orr in the September 11, 2015 issue of The Paris Review: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2015/09/11/the-most-misread-poem-in-america/
PROTEUS: In Greek mythology, Proteus (/ˈproʊtiəs, -tjuːs/; Greek: Πρωτεύς) is an early sea-god or god of rivers and oceanic bodies of water, one of several deities whom Homer calls the “Old Man of the Sea”. Some who ascribe to him a specific domain call him the god of “elusive sea change”, which suggests the constantly changing nature of the sea or the liquid quality of water in general. He can foretell the future, but, in a mytheme familiar to several cultures, will change his shape to avoid having to; he will answer only to someone who is capable of capturing the beast. From this feature of Proteus comes the adjective protean, with the general meaning of “versatile”, “mutable”, “capable of assuming many forms”. “Protean” has positive connotations of flexibility, versatility and adaptability.
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