jessica-chow-lau
3rd February 2016

Tough choices

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both—I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Tough choices
Photo: alpoma @Flickr

One of adulthood’s most painful realisations is the magnitude of when your decisions affect the people around you. The same person whose previous adjudications were limited to soup or salad now has the influencing power to make someone’s day, to reciprocate the love of an interested mate—or to cause someone to spiral into a most dreadful place.

Of course our adolescent actions hold some weight, but as people take on inevitable obligations, the duty of making the best decision becomes concentrated to the atomised self. No more dilution of responsibility. Sometimes the question emerges: What if both choices yield unfavourable outcomes? A lose-lose situation, whatever action one takes leading to a confused sadness on the receiving end. A multitude of philosophies and religions could be brought up, all prescribing slightly different medications for the agony of bringing something less of happiness to someone. But they all (roughly) fall under similar lines of thinking.

Weigh the decisions to what values you hold dear—your interpretation of truth, friendship, serendipity. In a scenario where you have to hurt a friend with honesty, or have them discover for themselves that their partner is being unfaithful—take the road depending on how you define truth. Absolute truth: Tell them yourself. Conditional truth: Let the partner tell them. The only wrong answer is not owning up to what you do and not take the responsibility for the lives that you’ve affected. Standing idly by while an exterior forces make your decision—that’s the worst you can do.

Feigned comfort aside, there is no suggestion to put on a smiling face. You’re not supposed to feel confident (if you do, you are years ahead of me). But, there is a certain solace to be found in knowing that there’s nothing else you can do. When the waves are overhead, you would have done everything you could to prevent the tragedy. And when the time comes and when the storm has settled to conditions where you can once again enjoy the outdoors—apologise.

If it is truly a fault that came from you, say sorry for yourself. If you were the bearer of bad news, say sorry for the universe. Rebuild what was destroyed in the storm by acknowledging their pain by showing the pain it caused you, too. This is my apology. It won’t feel like it, but whichever road one chooses to go down will be the right one. Those familiar with Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken will know that it’s usually seen as a panegyric method of self-assurance (“And that has made all the difference”). But if one is to examine the words in between the first and last famous lines, you’ll see that the two roads “equally lay” and both were worn “really about the same”.

When presented with a fork in the road, we will only tell ourselves that our decisions have made “all the difference” because our guilt assumes that our reality—and their reality—is the direct product of that choice. Dear reader, this is not the case. Yes you are hurt, and worse yet, you have hurt. But we know no other life. Dwell as you may, but there is no use in wishing for another truth. There is no comparison to another better outcome, only the one that the guilt has imagined. You lose sleep, you cannot bear eating—or perhaps worse. These are all okay. Just remember to keep walking down that road. Look back, but only do that to see what is ahead.


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