Roads Diverged

By: Shalhevet Cohen  |  September 22, 2023

By Shalhevet Cohen

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” begins Robert Frost’s famous poem. Throughout the poem, Frost teaches that life is filled with crossroads. Small and big, we are constantly faced with the task of choosing between two directions. Some are minimal, such as what to eat for breakfast, whereas others are life altering. We form our lives and define our values through those choices, and therefore, it is critical to consciously and carefully evaluate which path to take. Yet, we cannot always, or possibly ever, live according to all of our values.  Our ideals contradict each other and force us to decide which value will overpower the other. Which of my beliefs is most important at this moment? 

For the past while, I have been at a crossroads. Just like Robert Frost depicts, I am standing in a forest unwilling to make a choice. Two divergent paths are clearly laid out before me, yet I do not want to travel down just one. Each trail lifts up one of my values on the highest pedestal, while dragging another through the mud. Frozen, I am unsure what to do. Will I raise a family or pursue a career?

It is at this crossroads that I am stuck. Both are aspirations for me, but I do not want to perform either of them suboptimally. For me, it is an easy choice which one is more important. Raising a family is a gift, and would undoubtedly be more meaningful for me. However, does that have to come at the cost of succeeding professionally? These two values seemingly battle each other, neither able to win without completely wiping out its opponent.

Since beginning college, I have predictably experienced an increased focus on the importance of career development. The college environment is undoubtedly career-centered, with classes, events, and even summers all aimed at the common goal of building students’ careers. Specifically in my experience as a Syms student, there is an added focus on the intense lifestyle of someone who wants to excel in business. For example, the esteemed jobs of consultants and investment bankers require long, dedicated hours with little personal time. In numerous classes and events, the idea of work overwhelmingly overpowering life in the work-life balance is preached as a necessity in business, at least when starting off. This exposure to the immense effort required to succeed professionally is critical, training students how to reach their professional goals. Yet, through all the emphasis on career, I think a crucial conversation is missing.

I am constantly contemplating how I can best maintain the integrity of both of my values. This is not a question that can be answered simply. In fact, it is a question to which the answer, if you manage to find one, constantly needs to be reevaluated and adapted as a result of changing circumstances and personal development. I do not think that the challenge of conflicting values will ever be completely resolved; this dichotomy will be ever-present. What I do think should and can happen is a change in conversation. The lack of acknowledgement of the consequences of pursuing an intense career is dangerous. Rather than glossing over the effects of pursuing one aspiration over another, we, as students and as an institution, should participate in conversations about the difficulty of the choices we are facing. As the common saying goes, “knowledge is power.” Only with awareness of the complexities of balancing seemingly contradictory values, can you actively decide how to implement your values so that you lead your best life.