Two roads diverged in a wood when I was 16. Long before I ever read Robert Frost.

I was on my fourth high school and was sitting in a classroom taking an SAT test. They said it was required to graduate, so I couldn’t skip that day. I had to graduate.

Only, college was not something that we talked about in my family. I was the oldest of four children. The only male. I religiously attended the church of heavy metal, and believed that rebellion was my charge in life. As a result, I was absolutely unmanageable. I pitied my parents.

I saw the two roads, but there was one other—no more than a path, really, covered in brush between them. You had to look pretty hard to find it. Alcohol helped.

So I sat in a florescent classroom filled with pimply-faced kids my age who were all being shoved onto the well-traveled road. Into college. Away from home. Off to a life of responsibility with its safe routines predictable outcomes.

Things that bored my restless, recalcitrant spirit. I’d be damned if they were going to shove me into that meat grinder.

I liked to write. And watch movies. And score beer whenever I could. Back then it only took a couple to escape the overbearing world of robotic adults. Years later it took a lot more.

So for three hours that Saturday morning, I methodically filled in the bubble C on the answer sheet. Over. And over. Taking care to ensure that every blank speck within the bubble was neatly covered in lead, rotating my #2 pencil every few strokes to keep it sharp. My answer sheet was a work of art.

When the test ended, the other kids let out a collective laugh as though rejoicing that the thing they’d long feared was finally over. As the teacher walked the room gathering the sheets she wore a smile that said, “Welcome to the real world, kids. If you’re lucky, you’ll be fine.” I handed mine to her with no emotion.

College. Yeah, right. I left the school that day and drove to the beach where I spent the afternoon staring up at the clouds from the hood of my car–and drifted into sleep.

Two roads diverged in a wood and I took a path that was hidden from view. Hacking my way through life for the next ten years until the path became a swamp, and I was chest-deep in mud.

When I awoke, I was back at the edge of the wood where the two roads diverged years before. The lure to follow the well-worn road was strong. It was safe. Predictable. Everyone was there. Marching in single file.

Then I took the road less traveled by.

And that has made all the difference.



The Soccer Tournament

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.