The Abandoned Road

The desire for an alternate way of life catches us unawares, sometimes while stuck in traffic, on an evening stroll or before we drift off to sleep. I might have been a different person. I could have lived elsewhere. It lingers in our sub-conscious, this vague personality that we never became and the life we might have lived. We may long for a dream home we wished to live in with the kind of partner we never found. Life doesn’t provide us with tailor-made situations. What we do get though, if we are lucky, is a blurry likeness of our aspirations, a little like Monet’s paintings. Despite the pleasure of the big picture, many of us mull over the possibilities that were left behind.

Sometimes we address this desire openly, in conversation with a close friend or a therapist. Never mind if the scenarios we play out are unrealistic; the fantasy keeps us engaged. There’s always that someone who got away or a vocation we didn’t have the courage to pursue. The yearning hits us at the oddest of moments, while riding the elevator to attend a boring meeting or while listening to the sincere voice of a street performer. An invisible clock ticks ominously to remind us that time slips away. Is it still possible to move abroad? Perhaps, it isn’t too late to acquire another degree. Besides such speculation, we also possess that insouciant ability to blame others. My parents should have stopped me, goaded me, steered me or left me alone. The decision that was not taken has never met an outcome.

The fact is that we have all had to make choices in a world of constantly changing social, political and economic scenarios. Career paths are often decided in our youth, before we meet our strengths or grapple with our weaknesses. We can’t foresee the advent of other professions or expect resentment to form towards one of our choosing. We are guided by various factors; family, love, passion, adversity or lack of clarity. With the passage of time, we judge our younger selves because we have changed and lost touch with who we used to be and live in a world that barely resembles the one we grew up in. We form our character while crossing the hurdles of a path we picked. It’s futile for our contemporary and relatively wiser versions to judge the self who made a choice at a previous point in time. Sometimes, abiding by a choice we made is also a choice we make, every day.  Robert Frost summed it up when he wrote, ‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. And sorry I could not travel both.’

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