READER OF THE MONTH: Adam from Roanoke
My name is Adam, I’m 27 from Roanoke, Virginia, USA. A year ago I was in a fairly dark place in my life, because a couple of years before I had finally given up my passion and dreams of studying the law, convinced for a variety of reasons that I would never get to law school. Instead, I resigned myself to working dead-end jobs and contract work I hated. I did my best to shoulder this idea that I could never really live the life I wanted, and as I became more and more settled into this belief, I spiralled downward in outlook and attitude. I began to drink heavily and spent my days indoors away from people, always finding a plethora of excuses for not pursuing any of my passions, cutting myself off from potential friends and relationships because it was safer that way. Then in midsummer of 2013, my wife of six years (and she was my sweetheart since high school) came to me, told me I was not the man she married, and walked out. In the wake of this, I lost my job, and it seemed like my life was well and truly over.
It was about this time that I came across a Zen Pencils comic.
The poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost had always troubled me. I loved the passion expressed in the poem, yet feared its meaning: that I would pick the wrong road. It was a secret fear of mine, this choosing of the path. What if I picked a path I was not satisfied with? But then I saw your drawing, and another interpretation blossomed before me. The poem says that the passage on each path “had worn them really about the same”, and I realised “the road not taken” was not a call to a particular path, but instead a call to action. The path not taken was making a choice, any choice, rather than sit withering away in passivity, as so many of us do because it’s easier.
So I made a choice. I sent an application to a paralegal program and enrolled in school with the goal of preparing for law school like I had always dreamed of doing. But the story doesn’t end there.
I struggled for months to get a job and cope with the fact that my wife had left me. My depression was very deep at one point, and then I came across another Zen Pencils comic, Stephen Fry’s Ultimate self-help book. I, like the character in your comic, was an avid runner who used to be very good at it. And like the depressed man in the story you drew, I was in my prime in my school days past, and like him, my self-pity destroyed my marriage (to a beautiful redhead, no less). When I saw the poor, pathetic man in his bathrobe sitting in the dark, gazing at a picture, the parallels were staggering. His questions were the same as mine. His struggles were mine. And when I got to the end of the quote in the comic, I was appalled. But then he gets up, opens a window and puts on his shoes! I knew I had to do the same. It is “bloody hard” to stop feeling sorry for yourself, but it is also bloody well worth it.
Because I enrolled in school, I got a call for a job that I enjoy: working in a law office. School is going great. I’m making friends. I am getting into the best shape of my life. And I am applying to law school at the end of this year. I now keep the Shaolin monk’s climb up the mountain with his Emerson quotes pinned up at work as a constant reminder to challenge myself everyday, and when people ask about him, I tell them about the “road less traveled”. I tell them that, like Joseph Campbell suggested, I am “following my bliss.”
I have taken the road less traveled and now I truly believe it will make all the difference.
Thanks for sharing such a personal message Adam, and what an incredible story! I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming law career. Seriously, what can a guy say after receiving an email like this? I never in a million years thought this website would have such an effect on readers. Besides inflating my ego to ridiculously obnoxious proportions, reading all these wonderful stories really energises me to keep creating better comics for you all. As always, thanks for your support.
As an added bonus, here’s a lengthy interview I did with the wonderful Brené Brown! Yes, she contacted me after seeing the comic I adapted from her quote and asked me to be part of her Daring Interview series. What an honour! – Gav