Saturday, April 23, 2022

I'm only one traveller

I've had Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken' running through my mind today as I've had to make a series of complicated decisions the past couple of days and have been congratulated—more than once by more than one person—for having made a decision at all.

"Good for you for making a decision!" my mom told me when I told her definitively that we won't be making a trip out to Utah this summer. And then I told my siblings that we wouldn't be coming out. And then I threw myself a little pity party—with tears and everything!—and then brushed myself off and went about my day. 
We decided it would be better to wait until at least Alexander (with his airway defect) can be vaccinated. And it would probably be better to wait until Phoebe can be entertained by things like snacks and books and—I'm not afraid to say it—an episode of Daniel Tiger or something, before committing to strapping her into her carseat for 6–8 traveling days. 

We also decided that with Andrew needing to return to the classroom in June, we'd be better off staying a little closer to home. If he happened to get COVID while we were out in Utah, it would be complicated because (1) we'd be somewhat stranded because he's effectively our only driver, (2) he's effectively our sole provider (more on that below) and we need him to be able to work, and (3) everything would likely be "out of network" for us. 

So for those reasons and all the other reasons I didn't list, we decided to postpone a trip out west until next summer. 

"Congratulations on making a decision!" my academic advisor told me when I sent her my plans for enrollment and employment for the coming academic year. Originally I'd planned on taking fall semester "off" entirely (with the understanding that I'd be working on my thesis), but without taking classes, I cannot work, and when I tried to "quit," my boss called me up and asked if we could find a way to make things work. So, I found a way to make things work. I'll be taking a mix of online and independent study courses (independent study meaning simply that I'll be working with professors using a curriculum designed by us to guide me toward finishing my thesis) and working (though I earn like 1/10 of what Andrew earns, which is why he's effectively our sole provider, as mentioned above). 

I'm a little worried about taking another full load of classes for another year, but it honestly can't be harder than this past year, can it? Like, I'm not going to have a baby in the middle of it or anything, so...that alone should make things easier.

Andrew also praised me (and congratulated me and consoled me) for making these decisions.

I tell you! I'm an anxious person in the absolute best of times, but when I'm in a postpartum condition (ie. I am having my sleep disturbed frequently through the night and am literally responsible for meeting every single need of another human being (though Andrew does help a lot, Phoebe depends on me for quite a bit; while I recognize I'm also responsible for my older kids and do care about/for them, I'm not so concerned that they'll have a need go unmet—those older kids can get food for themselves and take themselves potty and tell me when and what they need help with so they're not quite as anxiety-inducing)) I'm much more anxious about...well...everything.

If you want the worst-case scenario dreamed up for any given situation, I'm your go-to gal! 

If you need a decision to be made in a decent timeframe, free of emotional're probably going to want to find someone else.

Anyway, I've had "The Road Not Taken" running through my mind lately, specifically the lines "sorry I could not travel both / and be one traveler, long I stood" because I was feeling exactly I was prevaricating a long time as I gazed down the multiple paths I might take. 

Shout out to Ms. Swenson, my grade 11 English teacher, who once scolded me for neglecting to put my last name on a handwritten in-class response one time. There were two Nancys in the class, you see, and because I didn't put my last name on my paper she had to—*gasp*—put my paper aside until she came across Nancy Knight's paper before she could grade my paper since she didn't know which Nancy's it was (I'm sure that was a huge inconvenience for her). 

The same Ms. Swenson who gave me a poor grade on my first essay because it wasn't in five-paragraph form (in my defense, I had never heard of five-paragraph essays before). 

The same Ms. Swenson who didn't appreciate any of my literary analysis for The Great Gatsby or The Scarlett Letter and who threatened to not recommend me for AP English because I just didn't "get" what was required of me, and thus motivated me to take the AP English test at the end of the year just to spite her (and, you know, to earn college credit, etc., etc., etc.). And it was fortuitous that I decided to take the AP test at the end of my junior year because I ended up not returning for my senior year.

The same Ms. Swenson who had us memorize "The Road Not Taken" and pass it off by reciting it to her individually. When I was in the middle of my recitation a school-wide announcement came on and I had to stop reciting, and then when the announcement was over she asked me to continue from where I left off, and when I asked if I could please start over from the beginning she told me that I'd be welcome to do so...if I wanted to fail the assignment. 

I honestly don't know why we had trouble getting along (I just looked her up on Facebook because I was curious about what happened to her. As far as I can tell she is retired now, though her Facebook profile is quite locked-up; she is friends with the "other" Nancy though), but I don't regret having to memorize "The Road Not Taken."

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.

I...don't know if the decisions I made this week will be the kind to make all the difference. I do wish that I could have looked down each path long enough to see where each would lead so I could effectively weigh the heartache against the happiness each might offer. But since I can't do that, I'll have to just own the decisions I've made and make the best of them. 

1 comment:

  1. My physics teacher from my senior year and I had a similar relationship, she and I just didn't get each other, and neither she nor I, made little effort to hide our dislike for one another. As a teacher she was more concerned with promoting her brand of classroom management (which she had written a book about) than effectively teaching physics, admittedly I could probably given her more grace than grief, but I was a know-it-all teen. Physics is tough, she would teach a concept, then I would go to the smartest kid in our class, heck in our school, where he would reteach me and then I would in turn tutor my friends. My favorite memory of this class is when she handed back midterms and handed my friend Kelly's back to her with the comment, loud enough for me to hear, "I guess Doug's not as good a tutor as we think he is." (I think Kelly got a C). Without missing a beat, Kelly replied, "Yes he is, without his help I would have gotten an F."

    Admittedly I could have shown that teacher more grace than I did, but as a student who was often praised by teachers and counted many of his high school teachers among his friends, I did not understand her.