I have a confession to make: I never felt part of “the group” in middle school. It wasn’t until returning to my high school reunion that my classmates shared with me how much they thought I had it all together and that they had an abounding respect for me. Looking back now, I realize that the poem I had to grudgingly memorize in 8th grade, The Road Not Taken, would profoundly influence and encourage my life. Often I was faced with “two roads” and over and over again I picked the least popular way. But now, as the poem relays, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Making a difference has been my battle cry since I can remember. Graduating college at 20 years old with a marketing degree, high aspirations, and a shiny new company car, I was ready to take on the world! California, here I come! The plethora of cardboard boxes which served as my faux furniture populated my apartment until I could afford a real table and chairs. It was now that I was really grown up and ready to not only make some real money, but hopefully change the world. After about one year of going from client to client and hearing, “No, thank you…..we have what we need,” I was unsure what my purpose served. That is when I headed straight to a professional career counselor.
Fast-forward about ten years. I did not quit my job, but I bided time for many unquenched years. Frustrated…empty…and truly marking time, I couldn’t understand how I was going to satisfy this yearning in my heart to turn my desire of “making a difference” into a reality. All of my friends, including me, were making tons of money, but I was miserable. This is when I knew I needed to take a different route. It was time to return to school and pursue a nagging passion for which I had been dissuaded from pursuing early on. “Why, Stephanie, would you want to go into a profession which doesn’t produce a high income?” Having the money and working countless hours on something that produced no internal rewards was leading me to a wasted life. No more time to waste. I knew if I did what I loved, the money would follow.
Teaching has proved to be the hardest job; much harder than any million-dollar producing business endeavor for which I had ever participated. However, I go home each day exhausted with a sense of satisfaction, warmth, and eternal perspective. I may not be raking in the dough as I had in my past (like the so-called “world” would desire), but I’m hopefully making more of a difference than I would pounding the pavement selling a product for which is unneeded.
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I; I took the one less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost knew that a grassy road may be unpopular, but sometimes, the grassy road wants wear. I will never fully know for whom I have helped or what mark I will have in this world, but I will now never regret my choices to be a bit “different” in order to make a difference.