“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could…”
The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost
Life presents every traveler with choices – roads that extend beyond our vision into the horizon. For some those roads are paved, well-lit and easy to follow. Others are forced to navigate pathways that more closely resemble an old country “two-track" - rough, dirt tire trails divided by high grass and frought with peril. The common bond between all of us – we are all faced with choices at differing points in our lives – take the high road, or the low road.
The high road means climbing – hard work to get to the top. Each step takes work – forcing yourself up to where you know the view will be better, the rewards greater. The low road is for the lazy - the person who doesn’t want to have to work – a grade steep enough they can simply exist and move downward. Still traveling forward only because time knows no grade. Like one of those moving floors at the airport, it takes no effort to simply move through time. These travelers envy those on the high road. They envy the success, but it’s so much easier to do nothing – instead, acting like this is the road they want to be on. Our society allows, encourages you to celebrate the fact your life is a fucking mess. Instead of setting goals and attaining them, you lie in a pool of your own failures and have the gall to celebrate them.
People start their life journey in generally the same place: Some are poor, some are rich – some come from broken homes, others from strong families – but the road exists for all of us. The choices exist for all of us. Your road may be a little bumpier than someone else’s – but it is there and it leads up and down - the same as the rest. The common thread is opportunity – we all have a chance to go take what we want. Parents can’t afford to pay for your college? Nobody taught you how to manage money? You don’t have any strong role models? No mentors helped guide your way? You need to work hard to earn what you want – to climb that mountain to success – these excuses put you on the low road. Someone who has all those advantages, those levels of privilege – still has to climb, still has to act on those advantages. Privilege is a word thrown around by those who take the low road and want to feel better about their failures.
I am a straight, white male. That’s how those who can’t attain my level of success would label me. A simple, three word moniker to make them “ok” with the fact I outdid them at the game of life. They see me as “privileged” because of my race, my gender and my sexual orientation. They don’t see a man who grew up poor. They don’t see a man who lived in a house with no running water, heat or bathrooms. They don’t see a man who at the age of 6 had to walk outside in -30 degree conditions in the middle of the night to use an outhouse to take a piss. They don’t see a man without a high school diploma or who dropped out of community college because he ran out of money. They see none of this because they don’t want to see it. It isn’t easy to say, “he had it rough and overcame all that to be a success.” It is so much easier to simply say, “he is successful because of his privilege.”
White, or any other kind of “privilege” being shopped around on your social media feed – didn’t just happen one day. If someone has an easier route to success than you, it’s probably because their parents, or grandparents or however far back you need to go, fucking earned it. Your friend’s dad is a doctor and he was raised with advantages you didn’t have? His dad went to school and worked his ass off to become a doctor and is now giving his kid’s a better life because of it – should that person have to “check their privilege?” of course not. Why don’t you go out and work your ass off so your children can have a better shot at success – instead of citing reasons for the fact you’re a worthless piece of shit with no work ethic.
You think one day the Universe just decided to spread its legs to the all-powerful straight, white men of the world? If you think that, stop reading this article now and go read a history book – then go work to change your lot in life instead of starting organizations that whine about someone else’s. Celebrating your victim status ensures only one thing: you will never become anything but.
When someone talks about how much of a mess their life is, how they can’t figure out how to get their shit together, while acting as if this is what they want – I laugh. The obese woman doesn’t want to be obese – she wants to look like the girls on the magazine covers, but lacks the drive to put in the hard work necessary – it’s so much easier to say she is “healthy at any size” or “big and beautiful.” The person who tells her that being overweight ISN’T healthy or that being big ISN’T beautiful, becomes the villain. It is easier to vilify the person who forces you to look inward and be honest with yourself.
The person who can’t figure out how to pay their bills on time, who can’t figure out how to get a better job or show up to the office looking like a train wreck – doesn’t want their life to be a complete mess. They want to make more money, they want to be able to wake up when their alarm goes off, they want to be productive and have their shit together. This all takes work – and it is much easier to post memes celebrating the fact they are a complete mess – than putting in the work to change it.
Why does someone like my girlfriend have her shit together? She is in good shape, has a good job, is educated and owns her own home. All those successes represent work. Work she put in to reap the rewards of a better life. The kind of life the high road offers you. While her peers revel in lives spent partying away their miniscule paychecks - deep down they envy this kind of success. What creates this drive to choose the high road? Where does it come from and why did she, her sister, my brothers and I all choose it over the alternative?
The answer is not privilege. We all come from polar-opposite socio-economic backgrounds – and have achieved similar levels of success. The answer is expectation. We were raised in families that expected certain things of us – it was expected that we would be hard workers - it was expected that we would go out and be successful. Our roads were different, we faced separate challenges – but we all took the high road. Expectations can be set by others or yourself. They are free from restrictions of class, wealth and privilege. Without expectations set in our youth – and without goals set for ourselves as adults – we will flounder - swaying in the winds of chaos – simply existing – as you coast down the moving floor of the low road. No work ethic, no drive, no discipline and no desire.
Awarding participation trophies, pushing for “equality”, whining about “safe spaces” and living your life triggered as fuck – will get you nowhere. Setting goals, working hard and never accepting failure as an outcome – will change your life. Posting memes about not wanting to “adult”, citing “fill in the blank privilege” and pretending to celebrate your shitty lifestyle – will not.
Changing this attitude is hard work – society’s indoctrination of this victimized-failure mentality runs cradle to the grave. Like anything worth having, it takes work. It doesn’t matter if you are reading this when you are 10 years old or 100 years old – you can change. You can, as Frost says in his famous poem, “make all the difference” and take the road less traveled by. Take the road that doesn’t make excuses for you - but instead celebrates your discipline and dedication to becoming better. When your path leads to “two roads diverged in a wood” – don’t cite someone else’s “privilege” and look with hunger at the ease of the low road. Simply watch and see which way the crowd of obese, lazy, triggered whiners heads– and head the other way – up the mountain on the high road. To quote entrepreneur Gallant Dill – “I’ll see you at the top.”