The Path Less Traveled /or/ Why the Hard Way is the Best Way by K.A. Robinson

The following post is an imaginary speech that I played in my head one day while driving home from work. One of my bucket list items is to deliver a speech at a convention or seminar (TED Talk) in some format. Please enjoy this speech, which is again is fake.

Hello! Thank you for having me.

“I am incredibly honored to be here today, especially considering that I thought I wouldn’t be here. There is no way you could have gone back to 2007 Kyle and say to him “you’re going to give a keynote speech at this convocation when you’re 32” and 18 year old Kyle would totally be cool with it. Yeah. I did speech and debate but I can’t believe that I am here.

I want to begin today by asking you a question that I will come back to numerous times in this speech: Why are we afraid of the path less traveled? As I said, I will come back to this a lot because at the crux of my speech today is this very question. I hope that by the end I can at least show you that the path less traveled is the perfect route to get you where you want.

Any path has a beginning and my beginning is 8th grade. Specifically April of 8th grade when my parents took a bit of a risk by telling me that I would not attend Waukegan High School with my friends. My parents really wanted me to have a high quality education and they were convinced the district high school was not the place. “Instead” they said, “Instead you’re going to go to school in Somers, Wisconsin. Because Somers, Wisconsin is the home of Shoreland Lutheran.” That’s right, I went not only out of city but out of state to a private school for my secondary years with little to no background knowledge on what I was getting myself into. So that June, I said goodbye to my friends and I started to mentally prepare myself for Shoreland. That August, I attended Shoreland Lutheran High School as one of 72 freshman. And I stayed at Shoreland for all four years of high school. I was active, I got decent grades and I made lifelong friends. All those things I could have done at Waukegan, yes but Being at Shoreland was important for me because I realized something about myself: in order to be at my best, I had to feel seen. In Distrcit 60, I was one of 313 in my 8th grade class. I was possibly going to be one of 800-1000 at WHS and being lost like that would have been counter productive for me. I went somewhere to help me be at my best even though it wasn’t an over populated school and no body in my previous class was there. The path less traveled.

My next stop was college. I knew I wanted to go to college and become…something. I didn’t for the life of me know but I wanted to do something productive. Maybe business, maybe dentist, maybe teaching, maybe acting, or teaching, who knows. I did my ACT and scored 22, which is okay because most schools require a score of 20. So I sent my college application to 7 colleges/universities within 10 hours of me. University of Illinois, no. Illinois State University, no. Southern Illinois University, no. Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville, no. Northern Illinois University, no. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, no. University of Wisconsin-Parkside, no. By March of my senior year I had one acceptance letter: The University of Dubuque in Dubuque, Iowa. I didn’t want to go to Dubuque because it was a private college that was very expensive, plus I was not ready to go that far away from my parent, quite yet. But then in April I was accepted to Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee. WLC was just a tad less expensive than Dubuque and without much hesitation, I declared that was my college of choice. Why are we so afraid of the path less traveled? Because then we run the risk of truly seeing who we are. At the time, I was underprepared, over excited and not thinking about the longterm.

WLC was about $3000 less than Dubuque for a year’s tuition, but more importantly I had a large handful of friends who would be in the greater Milwaukee area for college. In Dubuque I would have to start over from scratch…again. I didn’t want to do that because I was afraid of who I was. In 2007 there would have been no way I could have started over from the beginning and survived. I for once wanted to be comfortable and adjust to change gradually with people who knew me for the most part. What was the payoff? Well besides being on the wrong end of a 63-3 waxing by The University of Dubuque (I was on the football team at WLC), I made some lifelong friends, fell in love with the idea of me becoming a teacher, lost my favorite hooded sweatshirt during the winter, fought with my roommate who was a high school friend of mine, gained the freshman 15 in the first 3 months, failed my first class…ever, was put on academic probation with an 1.5 GPA my first semester, but worse of all drove my parents to near bankruptcy because I didn’t do a good enough job getting financial aid. I had come to a fork in the road and I had to act. Sometimes, the road less traveled forces you to make decisions you didn’t anticipate. Luckily, I had a network to call on to help me through these decisions. Even though this road is yours to travel, there is no reason you have to go on the road less traveled without some guidance. Build a support system from people whom you can confide in.

So after a year at WLC, and talking to people in my support system. I transferred to community college to make up credits. While there, I was accepted to the college that would eventually be the home for my degree, Martin Luther College in Minnesota where I would continue to work towards my education degree. The end of my college career was going along as planned after a brief detour due to some uneven roads. Spring 2012 I began student teaching in Milwaukee with an 8th grade classroom. My dream setting, my dream grade and soon enough I would be done with this and on the path to graduation. So I put my mind on coast and kind of showed up to my student teaching placement. Did what I thought would get me through, but I was wrong. I was not at my best during that experience, and because of that I did not pass my student teaching placement. I couldn’t graduate in May. I could not start my career. It seemed that my trip had come an abrupt end. Sometimes the road less traveled will take you down some dark paths, and you have no choice but to go through it. I was here because of my own omission and I couldn’t start my career…yet.

At the time I had no idea how important this would be for my future. This failure that slapped me in the face was most likely the wake up call needed to get my head right about teaching. I was also very immature at the time, so a wake up slap is just what a 22 year old Mr. Robinson needed. Now, being fully candid since it was a small college I knew that my classmates would know that Kyle failed. What I took solace in however was that their journey was not mine. Their path to teaching was not the same and could not be the same as mine because I was not like everyone else. In my time away from school, I learned about embracing my road less traveled. Focusing my attention on how to make myself into the best teacher I could became my mission. I was going to have that end goal of standing in front of my own classroom one day. But to get there as with any road, I had to navigate the all aspects of the journey to get to my destination. Avoiding the hazards, resting when needed for gas, avoiding tourist traps and just focusing on getting to my destination. I studied my lesson plans, read over my books, practiced on my teaching voice and work on my total presentation. Sometimes the the road least traveled will make you into a more focused person on your goals. When the end of the 10 weeks came and I was finally told I passed, I felt as if I could fly out of the school. The road from high school to end of college was not a perfect ride, but it was mine to navigate.

As my time comes to a close, I want to leave you with this important thought: Why are we afraid of the road less traveled? I can promise you that there aren’t two people who have the exact same life experiences. Even if we are all here to get better at our craft, the paths that we all have in common is this one stop. We will leave today on different roads. Your road will not have the same roadblocks or pitstops as anyone else’s. Do not wish for anyone else’s road my friends. With clear minds and determination take the road that is in front of you, even if you’re the only one on it! Thank you for your time today, take care and be well!

I hope I can give that speech one day. That would be super dope. Thanks so much for reading! I appreciate you all.

Take Care and Be Well!


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