A little poetry

Friday, September 04, 2009
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-"The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost (Full poem here)

I'm really not that big into poetry. Not because I think it's bad, but we only have time in indulge ourselves in so many hobbies and poetry isn't one I ever really got into. Music is much more my thing (as you can see here).

Anyway, this particular bit of poetry is special to me for two reasons. In fact, I had it up as my Facebook quote for a long, long time. First of all, I think that it describes my life at least somewhat. Secondly, I had to memorize it for Miss Hess's drama class during my senior year of high school, which was quite the endeavor.

First point

As cliched as it may sound, I'd like to think that my path in life so far has been "the one less traveled by". For example, while I'm sure that I'm not unique, I have yet to meet another person who majored in Japanese and Math. Doing both was a huge struggle, especially during my final year in college when I had returned from Japan and my interest level in mathematics was approximately zero. But somehow I finished it. Seeing that I'm currently teaching English in Korea, I don't know what good (if any) my majors will do me yet, but it'll be interesting to find out.

I also have a more concrete example, that I realized after I read this poem in high school. On the outskirts of my hometown, there was a bluff where I could look down and see the two roads that entered the village from the east. There was Highway 14, not a "major highway" by any means, but the main artery to the village. And then there was County Road KP, which was the secondary road that had far less traffic. Anyway, one night while I was sitting up on the bluff, I looked down at the car lights passing on the roads. A fair number of lights on 14, yet very, very few on KP. Visualizing this was really striking to me, and I realized that even though I always had the option of taking Highway 14, I'd almost always take KP. To me, it just felt like the thing to do, and it think it's a concrete example of how I like to lead my life.

(Okay, to be honest I probably only drove on KP because there weren't any cops to pull me over for speeding...but it made a good story! Right? Right?!!)

Second Point

So, like I said, I had quite the endeavour memorizing this poem in high school. Our drama gave us an assignment: pick a poem, memorize it and recite it. I think she recommended this one to my friend Alicia, but I decided I liked it and chose it. Anyway, I tried hard to memorize it, I really did! But when it came time to recite the poems in class, my brain just wouldn't do it! I completely butchered it, and Miss Hess told me to try again the next day.

I was soooo frustrated, so I decided to try a different approach. Putting my frustration to good use, I went to our family's piano and recorded a couple of minutes of me playing some scales and chords in C minor and decided to use this as background music for my poetry read. It was a reasonable short poem, but I had a couple minutes of music, so I ended up spacing out the lines so that there were pauses between them, which I figured would make things more "dramatic".

I went to class the next day, and read the poem as I had prepared it. I think having the music added helped me remember it, because I had absolutely no trouble the second time. Furthermore, to my surprise Miss Hess liked my reading so much that she made me read it again for her drama class the next period. She told me that when she first heard me pausing between lines, she thought maybe I was struggling to remember the next line, but she then realized what I was doing with my timing and really liked the approach aesthetically. So, despite the failure and frustration of my first try, things ended up working out really well!


I imagine you're wondering what this has to do with teaching English in South Korea. When it comes down to it, I'm not really sure myself. Reading some quotes on another friend's blog made me think of this quote, so I decided I'd go ahead and write about it. So maybe it has nothing to do with what I have going on here.

At the same time, perhaps this quote and it's place in my life have everything to do with being here in South Korea. First of all, despite being a more popular choice than it used to be, teaching abroad isn't exactly a "typical" career move. And thus we see a clear tie between my first point and what I'm doing here.

I think the second point is probably more important though, both because it's more personal, and because it has an important lesson in it that I need to try to remember while I'm here. And that lesson is that if I fail, I need to take a step back, reconsider, and try again. Being in a new country is a challenge, and while things have been going pretty well so far, there are definitely going to be "failures", both big and small, so I'm going to need to do my best to roll with them, learn from them, and get up and try again. And the experience of failing to memorize this quote, only to end up reciting it very well is probably an anecdote I should try to keep in mind as I deal with my new surroundings. I know I'll be able to overcome the challenges I encounter here, even if it might take me awhile.


Alright, I'd like to think that turned out fairly well. I'm writing in a PCbang and it's about 3am here, so please forgive any mental lapses in my grammar! Anyway, now it's back to reading about my Green Bay Packers...I think they're gonna finish 19-0 this year, for sure!

Til next time, cheers!


Fernanda said...

i feel obliged to comment to this because I just finished reading a poem by Frost.
i really liked this post, and how you connected things from the past, and what is going to happen.
how's the korean learning going?