The challenge was to write an essay that answered this prompt:
April is National Poetry Month. Tell us about your favorite poem or poet and why you like it/them.
Latifat shared her experience of going against her country’s norms and instead listening to her heart. Enjoy her inspiring submission:
THE ROAD NOT TAKEN — ROBERT FROST
I sat in class as I watched my teacher write the poem on the board. The first line, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” caught my attention. I looked up, paying attention to every word as he wrote them on the whiteboard.
It began to make sense, my decision two years earlier. I come from a country where being intelligent means you have to choose from a set of careers because they guarantee you a good life and it would be a waste to use your brilliance in a different area.
It was the beginning of the Senior Secondary School year, and I was in front of two different roads — I could choose to be a science major or an arts major. There were three choices, actually, but there was no question about the two most important ones for me.
The first term had allowed us to be a part of all three departments and study their core subjects. Although I enjoyed the science-based subjects, the arts were my calling.
At the end of the term, we were allowed to choose our departments going forward, and it seemed without question, based on my performance, that I’d be choosing the sciences. It came as a shock when my parents asked me before I left home for school, “What would you choose?” and I answered, “I’m going to the art class.”
My parents asked me if I was sure, and I answered affirmatively.
In my country, Nigeria, smart and bright young students were to choose the sciences. It was an unwritten rule. This would pave your “road” to becoming a doctor, engineer, or pilot, or pursuing some other career regarded with prestige, and that would guarantee you a good life. I said no to these.
The arts department was regarded as a department for jokers, students who weren’t sure about what they wanted. I knew what I wanted — to make a lasting impact through the arts and humanities using my intellect and creative abilities.
The principal looked at me in shock later in school as I reiterated my choice: “I prefer the arts department, sir.”
“Why? Your results here show that you excelled in all departments. Even if you are not going to the science department, it would be great to choose the commercial department.”
“That way, you can still become an accountant or financial auditor.”
I smiled. “I’ll stick with the arts department, sir.”
“If you say so. That’s all. You may go.”
I was happy I’d been allowed to take the road less traveled by. In subsequent terms, the core science subject teachers never failed to lecture me on how I was making the biggest mistake of my life any chance they got.
I instantly knew this would be my favorite poem for years to come once it had been entirely written on the board.
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.