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Thursday 18 January 2024

Tell Us About....The Road Not Travelled

 & Tell Us About link-up

Gail Hanlon from Is This Mutton- right - meeting Prof Stephen Hawking

Dear friends. This month's Tell Us About challenge was set by Mary Katherine, and it's The Road Not Travelled.

"The Road Not Traveled" is a poem by US poet Robert Frost. Its meaning is often misinterpreted.  In the poem the traveler reaches a fork in the road and chooses the path less traveled, with greener grass. 

By choosing the less-traveled path over the well-traveled path, the speaker suggests that he or she values individualism over conformity.

But I think this is an over-simplification when applied to real life. On paper it looks as if I initially chose individualism with my first job, but it was all about luck. 

I also have two examples when I had no choice but to take two unwelcome forks in the road. 

Luck Made Me a Journalist 

When I was 18 and about to leave school with A levels, I was lucky enough to secure a place on a very prestigious journalism course. Given that teachers and a career advisor had recommended I become either a nurse or a secretary, I guess this choice could be seen as non-conformist.

But let me tell you how I came to win my place on the course, run by Mirror Group Newspapers. 

My parents occasionally had a weekly newspaper called the South Devon Times, and I happened to see an advert looking for a candidate to be trained as a journalist.  I sent a letter and was almost immediately interviewed, and accepted.

I didn't realise until the course actually started that there were several other trainees. Half of them were graduates, and they'd all undergone quite a lengthy selection process. I'd managed to dodge this because the editor of the South Devon Times needed a trainee and it was agreed a last minute extra place would be provided.

After three years as a newspaper apprentice, I gained the NCTJ certificate and then went to work for BBC Radio Devon, then starting up, as a reporter.

The Road Took an Unwelcome Fork

I would happily have stayed in Devon but life threw a curve ball. I had to take an unwelcome fork in the road.

I had been married for just over a year, and we were living in an idyllic spot 5 minutes from the beach at Exmouth. Suddenly my then husband announced he had an interview in London for a job with one of the subsidiaries of BT.

He had been unable to make much headway in the latest career path he'd chosen (freelance journalist), but this came as a bolt out of the blue.

BT hired him.

I was then faced with the prospect of finding a job in London, and living there. 

By now I was 27 and working at Radio Devon as a news producer. London was a terrifying prospect.  I ruled out immediately the idea of carrying on a radio career in London. In theory I could have got a job with the BBC or a commercial radio station as a producer. But I didn't have enough confidence in my own ability and thought they would all be laughing at my accent. Or I would be in trouble for getting lost driving around.

Instead, I saw an ad in The Guardian for a job at BT International (another subsidiary) for someone to start a new dial-up news service for staff.  I applied but was given a different job because they felt the original role would be too easy for someone with a radio background.

I was crying for days after leaving Radio Devon and having to go to London, where we had bought a lovely flat.  What a wimp. 

I hated the BT job initially, particularly when I arrived to find two PCs on my desk and no instructions  (I'd never used one). I thought about chaining myself to the railings of the Mirror Group headquarters opposite until they gave me a job. 

But after a few weeks, I absolutely loved working there.  I was sent on an amazing women's development course at Cranfield and promoted after 5 months.  Life was sweet.

Below: at BT International in 1989 (3rd from left)

Sent to Germany Against My Wishes

Several years went by. I was no longer in London but working at a very successful US semiconductor giant, living in Newbury and having the most amazing time. I was managing a team and doing a lot of traveling. The picture at the top of the post is from this time, with me and a colleague Catriona meeting Professor Stephen Hawking. Our company had pioneered the technology that gave him a voice. 

I was summoned by my manager for a chat, and surprised to see his manager was there too.

They told me I was going to be transferred to Munich in Germany.  They wanted me to manage a different team there. The company had joint headquarters in Munich, a much smaller office with about 200 employees.  I'd been there many times and knew many of the people. It was a very multinational office and English was spoken as a matter of course.

But I'm afraid I wasn't delighted at the prospect of moving.  As I was now single and renting a house, I had no real arguments to justify not going. 

It was all made very easy for me:  all my belongings were boxed up for me and taken to Munich, and I chose an apartment from a short list prepared by a company hired to find my accommodation.

And reader, life in Munich was fabulous! I have such happy memories.

Below:  interior of my Munich apartment 

Sometimes the Wrong Fork is the Right One 

So it just goes to show that when the road ahead sometimes has a fork which we are forced to take, with no choice, it's not always a bad thing.  

Moving to London and later Munich were not on my personal wish list, but both turned out to be fabulous opportunities.  As you know, I now live in London and have done since 2004, and I wouldn't be anywhere else. 

How would you have tackled this prompt?  Showcasing non-conformist behaviours? Or how you took certain paths in life, either through choice or otherwise, that turned out good or bad? Do tell in the comments.

Sharing my posts with these fabulous sites

Let's See How the Others Got On 

Bloggers from all over the world take part in Tell Us About. Hop over to take a look at their take on The Road Not Travelled.

US blogger Mary Katherine chose this prompt thinking about how our lives' trajectories are so often determined by a few key decisions, often when we are too young to have the benefit  of our own experience or perspective.  See if her reflections make you think of those pivotal points in your own life, and how things might have gone differently, for better or for worse.

Australian blogger Sue from Women Living Well After 50  looks at why we should reflect on, but not regret, the road not taken, as it’s never too late to change and take new roads and opportunities.

Marsha from Marsha in the Middle knows the roads she could have taken at certain points in her life.  But, those roads weren’t winding, tree lined, and ending at her happily ever after.  The road not travelled could have been all that and more.  Does the US blogger regret it?  Hmmm…you’ll need to click on over to see! 

Penny from UK blog  Frugal Fashion Shopper definitely did not take one road she should have taken, but did go down another road, which was worth the effort, but she still thinks about that missed opportunity.  

Australian blogger Jill from Grownup Glamour wonders where she would be now if she had followed other paths. 

Yorkshire lass Suzy, who lives in Portugal, unfolds a story that starts with planning a future in psychology in England to an unexpected love on her 16th birthday. Her journey proves that the road not travelled led her to a life she wouldn't change for anything. Read more at The Grey Brunette

Australian blogger Debbie from Deb's World says she misread the prompt and so has gone on and on about the road less travelled in her post: the way she came to be a teacher via a different route than most would take. As she shows, the road less travelled isn’t always easy; it requires courage to step away from the crowd and define your own story, but she is a firm believer that we should celebrate the beauty of forging our own paths. 

US blogger Leslie from Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After is briefly reflecting on what might have been while being cautious not to spend too much time looking back as that is not the direction we're moving in.  

Graphic for the January 2024 Tell Us About challenge, The Road Not Travelled

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