Episode 38: What If
Many of us remember that beautiful poem by Robert Frost that begins: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”
It resonates deeply with so many of us precisely because of how, in so few words, it captures the dilemma we all face as life unfolds: coming to a crossroads where a pathway that, as Robert puts it, “Knowing how way leads onto way”, once chosen sets the course and direction of our life.
If you’ve ever asked a child or a sibling, having graduated from high school, what they are going to do next then you have come face to face with this very dynamic. Very often they don’t know. The decisions they make in the months and years that follow will affect the unfolding of their life from that point forward.
I look back on my own life now and I can recount a dozen or more such moments, every one of which conspired to bring me to where I am today. Standing on this side of those decisions and seeing the beauty that has unfolded makes me very happy with the decisions I made. I easily forget the agony I lived through in trying to commit to one way or the other.
Every once in a while, I get asked this question: any regrets?
Well, some of what I have committed to required great sacrifice. I gave up or bypassed opportunities that tempted me to choose another pathway. At times I have paused along my journey to wonder what if? What if I had taken that soccer scholarship I was offered? What if I had said yes to an invitation while in the Catholic seminary to finish my studies in Rome? What if I had listened to the counsel of my Spiritual Director, my friends, and most of my family and not married the woman I fell in love with in the summer of ’83? What if I had said yes to that offer to take a church outside San Diego? With each one of those moments, I faced a crossroads where two roads diverged. And sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, I committed fully to one without ever turning back and trying the other.
Way has led to way, as we knew it would – and I never got to play for the US men’s soccer team, never made it to Rome or was ordained into the priesthood like I was so sure I would some day. I am married now 32 years to that woman I fell in love with, and we are proud parents of three wonderful children and grandparents of an adorable little boy who was given the name of my father. As for that church in San Diego – one of my closest friends is now their pastor and I – well – I am happy doing what I am doing.
The trick, I think, isn’t in getting these things right. We commit with less than all the information we need, trusting guts and heart and instinct, often choosing pathways that wise ones discourage and the odds-makers bet against. So be it.
The trick is in loving the choice we made and not second guessing it. No regrets. No going back. Just the dawning realization that we are the creators of a future open to possibility, and we are accompanied along the way by the sacred – the one who blesses us and abides with us every step of the way.
Gentle traveler, set your face to the rising sun. Meet the horizons of your tomorrows with curiosity; accept the choices you make along the way with grace; and travel the pathway of your choosing with acceptance, love, and a peace that passes understanding. And be yours the pathway less taken or one that others before you have also chosen – know that you are never alone. Be uplifted by those you meet along the way, and know that the sacred walks with you on your journeys Into the Mystic.
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