The Fork in the Road
When I was in high school, the environment was quite competitive - they were preparing you for a very competitive world -
a competitive race to get into a good university,
so that you could then compete to get a good job.
But there was little push for soul-searching...The thing is, when you are 14-17 years old you can’t soul search yet because your soul is just budding, it's a time when I think the majority of us got caught following the steps of what ‘we were supposed to do’ ...because you're so young you can't possibly know for yourself, so you just listen to what they tell you.
I was angry for a long time because once I reached college no one was telling me what to do anymore and I feel like I stepped in a lot of avoidable shit. Ex: Every adult knows about the Freshman 15, but us kids were oblivious. There had been no nutritional advice, or help for how to plan your grocery shop, so 85% of the people I know gained ugly weight that later gave them sagging skin and stretch marks. We were eating pure garbage at any hour of the day, which affects your sleep and hormone levels, and since everyone around you was going through the same garbage comatose, we thought it was normal. My body never bounced back from what it went through during those years...and this is just one example of the stuff we stepped in...but looking back, it used to make me really angry that adults all know about the pitfalls of that scary forest but I felt like I had been thrown to the wolves.
So now we’re past college. We’ve all gotten beat to hell with avoidable suffering. Somehow miraculously, we survived it... And even though we skidded, bumped, barfed - smack, crack ya ribs - duck ya head! - made it through that gnarly time, we were all still clinging to what we were supposed to do.
In my case, as a bright student who was interested in biology,
since high school I was naturally being primed to go to medical school. So, I did as I was supposed to, and put in my applications, went through the committees and interviews...brainlessly and quite effortlessly, step by step as society would have it and without any objections. ... what we’re supposed to do, which society would tell you is to get a job in a good company, climb the corporate ladder, buy yourself a house and have the 2.5 kiddos with a dog, make yourself a pension plan and retire at 65 to someplace warm, enjoy the grandkids, etc.
... ... ...
What you are supposed to do is laid out for you in steps. You don't have to think much about it, and while the steps might not be easy to achieve, you know what you are supposed to do.
Somewhere I found a fork in the road,
and I ran just about as fast as I could
down that lesser beaten path.
I don't know what made me do it... I just started running.
Branches smacked me in the face, I stepped in rabbit holes and twisted my ankle, but the areas in between those pains, with wide-open fields of exotic flowers, hard climbs up mountains that have you panting and sweating but you are rewarded with gorgeous, snow-covered views that bring you close to God (even sweeter because you know that no machine did the work for you, that your own two feet earned you your place here), air so fresh your whole soul is charged up when you inhale...crystal clear lakes with their cool water and shipwrecks! SHIPS! 100-feet-long resting on the sandy bottom fully intact like the day they went down 100 years ago...then the path led down to the seaside where you stuck your face in to discover a fascinatingly-beautiful alien world of the sea and its creatures that are powerful and humbling.
Now I'm not doing what I'm supposed to ... in fact, I'm really far from those responsible things society tells me I should be doing.
And here in this wild territory, the realization is that when something bad happens, you can’t be angry for not being told.
Midwesterners, let’s use the analogy of 4 people running full-speed through a cornfield: each will take a unique path through the tall stalks but all are paths correct and you'll all come out the other side (unless Jason is hiding in there with a chainsaw). They could warn you that ‘there are holes where you can twist your ankle’ or ‘there can be birds hiding in there that will flush up and scare the daylights out of you’....but as you’re running, you don’t have anyone by your side except your guardian angel on your shoulder...no one is going to cry out ‘ditch!’ or ‘duck!’ because your unique path through the field no one else is experiencing. They might commiserate when you’re done “oh yeah, that’s happened to me” ...but it’s hard to receive real-time warnings.
On a well-traveled road, you would expect to have street signs and stop lights helping you move along and travel safely. When you blaze a new trail, there is no anger about not being warned. How could they warn you?
So what I have come to understand is...I think it's my obligation to tell younger folks how not to get hurt. Tell them everything I know, and leave no gritty detail out! Help them avoid avoidable suffering.
But, I also want to tell young and not-as-young: "RUN FORREST!"
When you get to that fork in the road:
"You can choose to walk the road well-traveled, or to run through the cornfield like your pants are on fire to explore what waits on the other side."
I've found that the risk is worth the reward.
You have ONLY100YRS.
That time in 2010 I ran right out of town and two months later I emerged in Rome...