The Road Taken


This road again.

For ten years, I was in a near constant state of financial insecurity as I scrambled to find work, pay off accrued debt, and then save money for my next move. There were precious few moments where I could just relax and feel confident in my situation; when those moments did come, they didn’t last long.

Perhaps, then, it was inevitable that as I committed myself to yet another move, my finances would go to hell. As of today, both of my part-time jobs are cutting back hours in the wake of revenue shortcomings, and with that, the razor-thin line I had been attempting to navigate on my way to making my savings goal for the next move has all but vanished.

With just over half a year until my planned departure, I’m looking for a third job just to pay my bills, forget savings.

On the one hand, this is nothing new. I have been here before, more times than I’d like. The constant calculations running through my head, the tightening budget, the imagined conversations with people who I will have to disappoint with broken plans; this is all so routine by now as to almost be laughable. You always stress out, I hear a voice in my head saying, and then it always works out.

Which, while technically true, doesn’t make it easier. Because things don’t just work out, I have to make them work.

Between looking for a third job, taking a TEFL class, working on my writing projects, and trying to have some semblance of a life, something will almost certainly have to give. For sure, if there’s anyone hoping I’d come for a visit before I left, you can pretty well scratch that. Come to New York City, if you like, we have things to do here, too.

And hell, I haven’t even moved to Spain yet; I’m still in the easy part.

This is the part of my life that I hate, honestly. It can feel like drowning. I don’t have a safety net or family to fall back on. I either figure it out, or… I don’t.

Of course, I must not hate it too much or I wouldn’t keep doing it to myself. Or perhaps I just hate the thought of not doing it too much to quit. Either way, once again, I’m locked into a path and the costs are adding up.

Every road in life has a toll; we choose which ones we’re willing to pay. I could have chosen a different one.

There’s a version of my life where I’m not 33 and uncertain about next month’s rent. There’s a version of my life where I’m thinking about taking my girlfriend (or, hm, wife?) out for a Valentine’s Day dinner tonight. There is some version of me in one of the multiverses where I haven’t thought about money for a decade because I make so much of it.

I’ll never meet those versions. The only life I will ever know is the one in which I sacrificed money, stability, career, relationships, and health in the pursuit of a dream. In this universe, I’m doing it again. I suppose it goes without saying that I’ve sacrificed mental health for this, too.

I don’t know how this trip ends. In the long term: Alone and in the dark, just like everyone else. But the path I’m on – this road that keeps winding and threatens to lead me off a cliff – doesn’t have mile markers or destination signs. I can’t look around and say, “I’ve made it this far, I’ve only got a little ways to go,” because there are no landmarks on this route. This life doesn’t have a roadmap, and some day, that lack of direction may just catch up with me.

You know, that famous Robert Frost poem from which I cribbed my title today has two interpretations. The first is the optimistic, greeting card interpretation that people give it when they’re slipping it into graduation speeches and posting it as a Facebook status. “If you choose your own path, that will make all the difference,” the poem seems to be saying. This interpretation is wrong.

The real message of the poem – the warning – is about constantly second guessing our decisions. The narrator spends his life obsessing over the roads he didn’t take. It’s not about a man of  decisiveness, but a man of regrets. We either learn to live with them, or they become everything we see.

It’s something to accept – when I’m broke, when I’m sick, when I’m uncertain how far away from normalcy my next detour will take me – that every path leads to regrets, even when the destination is happiness. I don’t know how this one is going to turn out. One day I may choose the road that leads to nothing but regrets.

Until then, though, I guess I’ll just keep walking.

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