Of Choices and Roads

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In light of what I want to discuss today, allow me to share with you a poem, The Road Not Taken, by the American writer, Robert Frost. This poem first appeared in 1916 in the collection Mountain Interval:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

There is a lesson to be taken from R. Frost’s Road, particularly if we take note that our students in Fifth and Sixth have begun to think about there futures beyond the auspices of High School: a percentage of them are evaluating whether going abroad for their undergraduate training is worth the hullabaloo of applying and, if accepted, moving out to LA, Austin, Buenos Aíres (one particular student is thinking of applying to my alma mater, Fordham University, in New York), while another percentage have already made up their minds about staying in Mexico (Universidad Anáhuac, Universidad Iberoamericana, UNAM).

Two widely different roads; both equal in value, both full of opportunities. But essentially different in kind.

Leaving home makes for an adventure, a way to independently engage in trial and error; a learning experience wherein a young adult may fortify his spirit by going head on into the hardships of the world. (Of course, new faces will be there—teachers, friends—to help them on their voyage; yet, the journey away from home is essentially a lonely enterprise). I have known cases of incredibly intelligent students whom found independence outside of home extremely difficult. But I know this: our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, always make it through. We are a tough and proud community. (I recall how, during my own time in college, my family would call me during moments of crisis [studying for my Latin final; the 20 page papers I had to hand in for Contemporary French Philosophy; finding out that my best friend at school developed a medical condition that would keep him a long time in the hospital]; my loved ones were there, hand in hand with me, keeping me safe even when the storm thundered the hardest.)

Staying home, on the other hand, implies having the ones we love most around and, as a people with deep roots to the bonds of family, to have the guidance and care from our loves ones in times of need and turmoil—but, and a big but, it also means losing out on the hard earned gifts of independence, some of which can (not necessarily however) make the difference between a mature adult, and an adult who kept to Mum and Dad to make the Big Decisions, but whom will get a time and a season to become independent. Of course, maturity is a subjective topic, and the freedom of college life can bend even the sturdiest of spirits; yet, I do believe that a person learns to be her or his own best friend the moment she or he begins to tackle real problems on her or his own (from cleaning her or his clothes, managing her or his finances, to picking what classes they want to take, all the way to what friends and people to keep in their lives).

One thing is for certain: every person has her or his own pace and personality. Some are eager to leave, others want to lay down roots in their home country.

But as our poet neatly puts it in his lyrical metaphor of a person’s journey, in which the wood represents life, and the roads the choices we make in it.:

‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, [a]nd that has made all the difference’.

My hope is that, like Frost, our students take the road less travelled—the road less travelled will be different for each student (some may opt to study Architecture, others Philosophy [I hope!], others Engineering, others Fashion Design… Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Law; abroad, in Mexico, anywhere; some may even opt to forego studying to start their own businesses… the roads are many); but what I want out of my students, is for them to travel the Road (with a capital letter!) in their own style and conditions. To make the Big Choices that will enable them to choose other Big Choices according to what they want. (For example, I chose to leave home for an education in the United States—this choice marked my life forever; I can wholeheartedly assure you that I continue   to reap the benefits of the seeds that I sow during my time abroad.) Let them be the ones who get to choose what they want to do with their lives; not circumstance or luck. Let us teach them to be owners of their own fate; architects of their roads and choices.

This is why it is important to teach them how to be critical thinkers, to broaden their analytical tools, to guide them as much as we can in the development of their ethics and values. And to remind them, that wherever they choose to go, however the distance, home is in their hearts.

So, I ask of you, as a proud member of this community, listen to your sons and daughters, for the time is nigh: Fifth and Sixth are beginning to walk the road that will lead them outside the safety of our walls, and onto new, exciting challenges. Let us pave these roads together, for together, we are strongest.

Warm regards,

Fernando J. Villalovs