This June ended the opportunity for me to write analytical essays for high school English classes and to relax and enjoy the summer before I left for college. I was offered the chance to blog here, and instead I will now be obsessively documenting a trip backpacking through Europe, the insanity of the last summer, and the adventure of moving across the country to start college at New York University.
Let me start by saying I developed a fascination with Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." I thought back to it as I sat next to my friends at graduation, nervously waiting to defy the rules by walking barefoot across the stage to receive my diploma. (It turns out they don't really care, because you're graduating.) Our valedictorian talked about waves and surfing. It was a bit perplexing, because she does not surf.
I'm curious to know if any valedictorian has used the famous line in the unconventional way that I have wondered about it. In his poem, Frost writes "I took the one less traveled by,/ And that has made all the difference."
It is easy to take the simple meaning in these lines, but I've pondered Frost's wordplay here; he either means that he took the one that fewer people have walked on, or he took the road that was less overlooked by travelers. Did it really make "all the difference?" If Frost felt that taking a certain road made a world of difference, wouldn't he have made it more clear which one he took? And is it better to take either one of these roads?
Even more importantly, is this the kind of thinking to have in the midst of heading off to college? Probably not. I do not doubt that there would be more than a few people both confused and maybe more than a little upset if I chose to ditch higher education and start a career, but it is an odd comfort to think about the possibility.
During our valedictorian's speech, while thinking about Frost and not the metaphorical waves, I understood that I could jump into the "real world" and not drown. Probably. But choosing to go to college can allow me, and others graduating right now, to figure out which area of work we will be most successful, despite the ever-growing amount of money that it will cost each year and the dire-looking economy.
Through the beginning of this summer I've been listening to stories at dinner that have backed up my decision, in addition to enjoying the food and houses that were produced through the success of a job with a college degree.
In between banter about the World Cup in South Africa, I have heard of law enforcement in Utah, acting in plays, falling in love, filming in Europe, Africa and across the US, and fifteen years as a private investigator. And I have had a great time conversing about this, even without any airplanes across the world or attractive European men, as I expect to encounter during the month of July.
One thing to consider as young adults leap into the collegiate world and choose not to start working immediately is how much college costs and to keep in mind that we could be earning what we spend on education in one year. College graduates have on average a higher income, but an 18 year old with a high school diploma can earn $20,000 per year, instead of spending between $40,000 and $50,000. Over the course of four years, not considering the possibilities of graduate school--or graduating early, or graduating late--the college student has spent at least $160,000 while the working adult has made $80,000.
There are, of course, many other factors that may affect both numbers, such as the outrageously high unemployment rate for our generation. The variables make the decision unclear, and in many circumstances it may even out the costs, or maybe even come down to a difference of $20. It is nearly indeterminable with so many different aspects. So maybe Frost's confusing wordplay is meant to make us look twice at this poem, and to realize that he does not specify which path he took.
Will it, in our lives, make all the difference? Or will we be able to go out and do what we want to do, college education or not? I do not think there will ever be a truly clear answer. However, the one factor that is not considered in the statistics is how purely frightening the big bad world is for a barely adult. Although I could possibly be completely independent, I think college is a fantastic way to switch from a nurturing home environment to facing real situations. So with that in mind I have decided that college is my preferable path, and perhaps it will lead me to break the hidden double meaning in Frost's infamous phrase.
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