Please Stop Using “The Road Not Taken” As An Inspirational Quote
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Please Stop Using “The Road Not Taken” As An Inspirational Quote

It doesn’t mean what you think it means.

Please Stop Using “The Road Not Taken” As An Inspirational Quote

Every year, around the time of June, I begin my yearly routine of back-to-school shopping for a new planner. Despite the amazing technology I have at my fingertips, I can’t break away from the good old physical planner and find myself comparing sizes and colors for nearly hours.

It amazes me every year, however, of how often I see these planners emblazoned with a quote from the famous poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

“and I-/I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference”

This quote is always used as inspiration, and alone, it sounds great. It encourages people to do what others are afraid to do - to take the road less traveled by - and find great success. If you are brave enough to break the norm, you can achieve anything.

But for those who have read the rest of the poem, the use of this quote as an inspiration is confusing. “The Road Not Taken” is not an inspirational poem. It’s ironic. In fact, it was originally written by Frost to make fun of his friend, poet Edward Thomas, who was often seen by Frost to be regretful of his decisions. Though Frost wrote this as a joke, Thomas, like many scholars after him, saw the poem as a serious reflection on the meaning of decisions, and one says in his own destiny.

Frost’s true intention, however, was not to encourage how people influence their own futures but to argue that people often try to find meaning in arbitrary decisions. Frost wishes to point out that humans frequently waste time wondering what could have been, or pondering over the effects of their decisions - living life in a state of What If instead of What Is. By questioning things we cannot change, all we do is waste the time we could be using to go forward.

After all, there is nothing you can do about the past; there is no way to know how the past will affect your future. The only thing you can change is the present.

The line that everyone quotes, “and that has made all the difference,” is meant to be ironic, not a motto to live by. The poem is not an inspiration, it is a warning.

Frost is not the first to have suffered from having his words taken out of context, nor will he be the last. In today’s society, every word spoken is twisted by the opposition. We don’t have real debates anymore: we just take the words of those we don’t agree with and change their meaning to support our own causes. And the worst part is, most people will never know the difference.

At the end of the day, a misplaced quote on a day planner doesn’t mean much, even if it does go against the author’s intentions. But it does beg the question: how much of what you see and hear in media is real, and how much has been altered?

The only way to know for sure is to look it up yourself, to do your own research, instead of simply accepting everything you hear. And this, unfortunately, is often the road less taken.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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