When I look back I feel like “The Road Less Traveled” has been a common theme in my life. Do you relate to this? I know I can’t be the only one.

I am a Chicana who grew up in the predominantly Mexican/Chicano town of Salinas, CA. As a kid, I felt like I walked in two worlds. The social world of my peers where we played familiar games, and my personal life which was rich with a curiosity of how this world “worked” and mainly consisted of wildlife documentaries. These documentaries excited me and made me happy, however when I tried to share this knowledge with others, they were not interested and quickly diverted to their playtime. Even though I was very young, I could feel the difference between us. I had no idea this would be the pattern for most of my life.

Most of what I have done has gone against the grain of my family’s values. The excitement was pleasant but the loneliness was painful. Moving away at 15, then at 19, choosing to not have children, preferring to live alone, being vegan and feminist, and constantly challenging the status quo were discomforts my family had to grow accustomed to.

Although these experiences shaped most of my early life, a more recent experience stands out as a very significant example of taking the road less traveled.

The weight of living life from a place of grasping for safety brought me to my knees. All of my familiar ways no longer worked for me, and I was faced with resigning to hopelessness or going through a re-birthing process that was painful, unfamiliar, and foreign to my family, friends, and community. I had to look back at my life, reach out for help, and learn how to walk in this world in a different way than I was raised and accustomed to. Although most of my life consisted of consciously doing things different than my family, in this moment in time, I was stepping out of my unconscious family patterns, and seeking my authenticity in an existential way far deeper than I ever had.

This poem not only captures the experience for me, but became an anchor I would return to several times to help me through that dark and painful time.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

~Mary Oliver

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