Is there a more famous poem than Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”? We love it and we fear it. In a few lines, it sums up a simple truth about life: You can’t go both ways. And whichever way you go, you’ll bring the unlived life with you.
The unlived life is exactly what Morgan Wallen’s latest single “Sand In My Boots” captures so beautifully. In the song, the singer meets a girl who seems to be his soulmate. They spend one picture-perfect night together and by the morning she’s gone, taking his heart with her. We join our hero on the long road back home: a lone cowboy driving down open highway, sun beating down on his worn-out pickup, wind in his hair—heartbroken, but soldiering on.
When I first heard the song, I loved it immediately. It gave me a feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But after a few days and many listens, it dawned on me.
Rewind to the summer of 2002. I’d recently broken up with my first serious girlfriend. It was one of those everything-looks-great-on-paper situations, but deep down I knew I had to move on. But once the deed was done it felt like I’d made a mistake. My mind begin playing that movie of the happy, perfect life we could have had together. You know the one.
At the time, the song that captured this precise feeling of having it all and throwing it away was by a band named Creeper Lagoon. The song was called “Chance of Lifetime. It was big and lush and cinematic and spoke to the life the singer had carelessly left behind:
Guess I just missed
The chance of a lifetime
Romance and sweet wine
Was just beginning
That happy ending was his, if only he’d been able to recognize it. We’ve all had these moments in our lives. We see the glimmer of the perfect job, the perfect relationship, the perfect house, the perfect children, and our imagination fills in the rest. There is immense pleasure, as well as immense pain, to be found in these fantasies. Especially when they crash against the rocks of reality. But isn’t there a part of you that loves the pain? It hurts, but at least you feel alive. "Oh break my heart; oh, break it again, so I can learn to love even more again," said Rumi.
Ultimately, what I love about both of these songs is they show us characters in transition, leaving one road for another. It's the in-between moments that really define our stories. “Sand in my Boots” brings us into one of those turning points with exquisite clarity. And as Frost reminds us, they make all the difference.