It's funny how you read something that brings back forgotten memories. Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood.... posted this morning by Bob Franks on the Itawamba History Review brought back a flood of memories for me.
My life was in a state of flux during the spring of 1969. I didn't know what I wanted to do, only that I no longer wanted to continue doing what I was doing. At the time I was working in an office in Fort Wayne. The job wasn't a bad one, just boring and repetitious. I enjoyed being with my friends but going out every night for a few drinks just wasn't fun anymore. I had always had a yearning to travel, to see other parts of the world, and I knew if I stayed where I was, I wouldn't go anywhere. However, I was barely making enough money to pay the rent and buy food so saving money for travel or anything else was pretty much out of the question.
During one late night, one of my very good friends at the time (we lost touch with each other long ago) and I were discussing options. Amongst the many ideas we tossed around was the Peace Corp, another was the military. I actually got an application for the Peace Corp and started filling it out. When I got to the part about how much college education I'd had, I tore it up. I spent two weeks at college the year after high school graduation, then quit. I didn't think that would help me get into the Peace Corps. So I started checking into the military. One of my brothers had just gotten out of the Navy, and the other had just graduated from Navy Boot Camp so I figured if I was going to join the military, it would have to be the Navy! It took some time for me to make the decision, lots of things to consider, but one of the things that led me in that direction were these lines from the poem by Robert Frost that were written on a scrap of paper and given to me by the friend mentioned above:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
There weren't a lot of women in the military in the late 1960s and early 1970s so I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I was certainly right about that! There were many people who tried to talk me out of joining the Navy (it was during Vietnam, after all) and very few (only two actually) who encouraged me. Sometimes, it may take me a while to make a decision, but once I decide that that is what I want to do, there is no stopping me...
I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like if that decision in the fall of 1969 had been different. I have no regrets. I'm glad that I did what I did. And when I think back on what my life has been, what I've experienced, the people I've met, where I've gone, all the twists and turns the path has taken to lead me here today, it really all comes down to those three lines of text. And to think of the memories brought back by reading those lines again. My oh my, how powerful a few words can be. Indeed.