Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Endless Nights, Endless Forks In The Road

Suffering from insomnia for as long as I can remember, there are times when I lay in bed for hours staring at the ceiling, thinking of things only I could think about at such an ungodly hour. Last night I was laying there, having just finished this book called Kennedy and Khrushchev: The Crisis Years 1960-63, wondering how drastically different the world would be had certain circumstances ended in dire consequence. I thought about the relationship between President Kennedy and Secretary Khrushchev. I thought about the friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. I thought about these larger than life images in my head like these great leaders and how wisely they acted under enormous pressure and strain.

Eventually as time wore on and I was still not sleeping I thought about how each of those men must have looked back on those times, times like the thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and wondered if decisions they had made some time earlier in their lives led to those exact moments. A quote came to mind:

Time passes in moments...moments which rushing past define the path of a life just as surely as they lead toward its end. How rarely do we stop to examine that path, to see the reasons why all things happen, to consider whether the path we take in life is our own making or simply one into which we drift with eyes closed. But what if we could stop, pause to take stock of each precious moment before it passes? Might we then see the endless forks in the road that have shaped a life? And seeing those choices, choose another path?

Believe it or not that quote comes from an X-Files episode titled "All Things." There are often times that I surprise myself with things that somewhere along the line I have memorized. That one especially. I wondered about Kennedy and if he had "drifted" into the presidency because he was a Kennedy or if somewhere he chose that path as it was set before him like a fork in the road. I wondered about FDR and whether or not he understood those decisions, even the smallest ones, that had shaped his life and made him the remarkable leader that he was. I found myself wondering about Lyndon Johnson and how he may have been thrust into his position rather unexpectedly without having chose any certain path other than the path to Capitol Hill.

Of course in the insomnia I became introverted and wondered if I had ever acknowledged the endless forks in the road that have shaped my life. I came from a rather disjointed and non-political family to feel this strongly at four in the morning about Kennedy, Johnson, and FDR. I chose a rather mediocre program of study in my last-option school for having so much knowledge about Nikita Khrushchev. I've passed up opportunities to go elsewhere, to study topics that keep me awake at night like the Kennedy assassination, because I feel so strongly about being close to home, when in all reality I don't know what home is anymore.

If I had taken the time to notice each moment as it passed me by, seeing the forks in the road that have shaped my life, would I have seen the choices before me and chosen a different path? Probably not. I am a firm believer that every path we take lends a lesson to us that will further shape our character and our destiny. I know that as one of my close friends once told me, the wrong turns are often just as important as the right ones. I once got on an airplane to Kent, Ohio, only to find that home was just as good for me. That wrong turn became something amazing and will forever be a lesson I cherish. I wonder if eventually I will find myself at peace with the decisions I've made today. And I'm sure eventually I'll share with you all my plans, but for the moment know that big changes are in my near future.

In my insomnia I wondered if at the Kennedy inauguration when Robert Frost recited his own work, if John Kennedy thought about "The Road Not Taken." Last night as I lay in bed unable to will myself to sleep the words of Frost echoed in my mind:

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.

2 comments:

Nick Speth said...

Tara, I don't know what to tell you except that I was feeling this exact same way just a few months ago, and things finally seem to be coming together. I actually have an idea of what I plan to do next. Good luck.

Tara A. Rowe said...

Nick, maybe you inspired me to make some changes. Actually I've just reached a point in my life where I realize I'm getting nowhere in a dead-end job in a business that I don't want to be in for the rest of my life. There are countless opportunities out there for me that I pass up because I choose the road most familiar to me. It's time for me to start choosing those roads less traveled by.