Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

Have you ever woken up from a dream and been forever changed by it.  A dream so profound that it rocks you to your core?  I can honestly say that I had just such a dream last night. In fact, it affected me so much that it prevented me from going back to sleep.  I knew that I had to get up and put my thoughts and feelings into writing immediately.

I've spent a good chunk of my life feeling like an outsider, like I didn't belong.  In truth, a lot of that feeling stems from my adolescence.  I've heard it said countless times, and I even said it myself a time or two, that college is all about finding yourself. For me however, high school was where I found myself.  I was part of a very close-knit group of friends.  There were about a dozen or so of us in our clique; sometimes less, sometimes more, as someone invariably moved to or away from our area.  We weren't quite popular but we weren't that group that everyone looks down on either. We were just somewhere in the middle.

As often happens in close-knit groups, several of us broke off into pairs, be it best friends or couples. We each were closer to one particular member of the group at one time or another and the members were interchangeable as time went on. Three of the members and I were inseparable for a few years.  We would have slumber parties and of course shared all of our secrets as girls tend to do.  There were times when I was closer to one of the girls than the other two due to our shared interests or experiences. We all remained close; however, and were there to pick up the pieces whenever we needed each other, which invariably happened when a romance within the group went south.

As is typical with most high school experiences, mine was filled with triumphs and failures, heartaches and betrayals, awkwardness and angst.  Over the years, as I've looked back on that time in my life, I've questioned whether or not I ever really fit in. Several years ago, I discovered through Facebook that the majority of the group met for breakfast at a local diner every Friday morning during our senior year.  I was never invited. When I found out about it, even though it was eons ago, it cut pretty deep.  It was proof for me that I in fact hadn't really fit in; that I really had been on the outside looking in all those years. More importantly, that I was never really like or wanted, but merely tolerated by those I considered to be my nearest and dearest friends.

My dream last night though was an epiphany. In the dream I was once again surrounded by my group of friends from high school.  As scenes from that time flashed through the dream I found myself asking countless what ifs?  What if I had made a different decision? What if I had acted differently? What if I had chosen a different path? As the dream unfolded I realized that it wasn't that I was unliked or unwanted or even an outsider. I was just as much a part of the group as anyone else.  My decisions and choices, based largely on emotion given the fact that I was a teenage girl, were simply leading me in a different direction.  Looking back now, I can see clearly that I often chose the road less traveled.  It wasn't that I didn't belong, but rather that I set myself apart from the rest. Whether it was intentional or not, I honestly can't say.  

As I have gotten older, I have continued to take the road less traveled, sometimes by necessity, sometimes by choice.  It doesn't make me any better or less than my peers, just different and that's okay.  I've often been jealous of my friends over the years, wishing I could have the same experiences as they had. Wishing that I wasn't faced with obstacle after obstacle or constant heartache.  I've come to the realization though that my experiences have molded and shaped me into the woman God intended.  I married my high school sweetheart while most of my friends found their spouses in college or beyond.  I am the first in our group to experience the death of a parent.  I am the one who chose to be vocal about my struggles with infertility in hopes of helping others feel less alone.  I am the one who experienced what no parent should ever have to face, the loss of a child. I am the one who is raising a special needs child. I am the one who has embarked on the journey of adoption.

Many of these experiences are not unique to society at large, but they are unique to my group of friends.   Despite the fact that many of them can't identify on a personal level, they have nonetheless supported me in every endeavor.  I have remained close with those same three girls  that I was inseparable from for those tumultuous years that we called high school, as well as with several other members of the group. Despite time and distance, our friendships have remained strong. We continue to support each other from afar and make it a point to get together whenever those of us who moved away go home for visits.  It's been quite some time since the entire group has been together but hopefully that will be remedied this summer when we gather for our 20-year high school reunion.

It hasn't escaped my attention that the reunion is most likely the cause for my dream last night.  I'm sure many who have gone back for their high school reunions, whether it be 10, 20 or even 50 years, have dreaded being confronted  by the memories of those few years. For some, those years were awkward and painful. For others, those years were the prime of their life.  I know now that I was afraid of those memories myself but I can honestly say I no longer feel afraid.  For the first time in a long time, I can honestly say I KNOW that I am right where I was always meant to be.  I have come to terms with who I am, for better or worse, and most importantly different, and I am glad I chose the road less traveled for it truly has made all the difference.

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