I was going through the self service checkout at the local superstore and took a little too long to get my wallet from my pocket.
Clearly, as a mere human, I was taking too long because the computerised voice of the checkout machine said, in a voice that sounded a bit too chastising for my liking, “Do you wish too continue?”.
I walked back to the car with the voice echoing in my mind…”Do you wish to continue?”.
I couldn’t help thinking of all the times in my life when I have felt like giving up, things getting on top of me, the pressure of ‘stuff’ getting me down and I’ve just stopped for a bit, needing to get my thoughts together. Then that voice, “Do you wish to continue?”.
Its actually quite a profound question. Its one I’ve asked myself in many situations, from struggling at college and wondering it I was really clever enough, to having a rough time at work and wondering if I could really cope, to a relationship going through a bad patch and wondering if its really meant to be?
Sometimes I have chosen to continue (at times there being no other option, well, none that I really wanted to entertain), and sometimes I have elected, whether rightly or wrongly, to discontinue.
In fact, looking back, I can see times when I definitely made the right choice to discontinue. I confess I did leave one college, after a mere three weeks, because it suddenly dawned on me (okay, not suddenly, the doubts had been there…) that this particular college was not for me. It wasn’t an easy decision because people were supporting me financially and I had left home to be at that college, but sometimes you reach a critical mass and know that your current pathway, no matter how you got there, is not where you need to be. What seemed so right at the time now looks so obviously wrong. Neither was it easy to change course because I decided to go see the most senior staff member who was there at that point and he wasn’t hugely sympathetic. The fact that he seemed far more concerned about the colleges reputation, that a student would actually consider leaving such an esteemed place of learning (in his view), than about the student before him who was obviously struggling with his life at that point and had made it clear he had agonised over this decision, worried me and made me feel that I was being somehow made to feel guilty. But in a matter of weeks, I was enrolled part time in another college (albeit playing catch up) and there was not a shred of doubt in my mind that leaving the previous college and coming to this one had been absolutely the right choice.
I can also recall a time when I made a wrong choice to discontinue. It was a place of work where I had, again, just started, and had found it really really tough going. It was a new area for me to work in and I admit I felt out of my depth, I was quite simply scared, very scared, that I wouldn’t be able to cope. So I left, I phoned them and said I was leaving for something else. I didn’t actually have anything else and I’m not proud of saying I did when I didn’t, but I was too much of a coward to say, “Look, I’m really apprehensive about this job, I feel huge anxiety and just can’t do it.” so I just said I’d found another job.
Before I made that phone call I had stood by the phone for a time and I knew that I could either try to overcome my fears and return to that job, or I could phone and make the excuse and leave. Looking back, I believe I made the wrong choice, I should have stayed and faced the fear and, had I done so, well, I have no way of knowing where it would have led, where I would be now. But its gone and I can’t go back.
I did what you have to do in that situation, I eventually found another job and went on from there. You can’t allow your life to be dominated by decisions you now believe were mistakes, when you believe you made the wrong call. You have to take yourself from where you are and start again, move forward.
I also remember sitting on the floor of the family house years ago, surrounded by scattered papers for a dissertation I had to do. I was in despair, time was running away from me and I honestly didn’t think I could get the thing finished, at least not in any presentable way. I stopped and, I’ll admit this, I just wept, couldn’t help it, the pressure was too much, the chaos around me, all the papers and notes that made no sense and had no order, crushed me and I broke, I wept and I believe those tears carried some of the tension from by body and spirit. I was faced with the same question rattling around my head, “Do you wish to continue?”
I didn’t know how I could continue, I was mentally exhausted and didn’t think I had the intellectual capacity to get the work done. But the alternative seemed to me to be to lurch and drop into despair. So, after kneeling there for some time, I got up, collapsed on the bed, got up later, and decided to keep going. I wished to continue. Bit by bit the notes started to make sense and order formed from the chaos. I eventually handed in the dissertation and it was conditionally accepted, on condition of a few changes being made, which duly happened.
Its a thought though, that when we are in all kinds of situations in our lives, we are faced with the question, “Do you wish to continue?”.
Its a personal decision, the answer sometimes is and sometimes isn’t obvious. At times, like when I went to then left that college, we say yes because, even if we harbour some doubts, we think its the best decision we can make at the time. Then we discover it was the wrong move, but we have the chance to change track, move forward and jump from one train to another. Sometimes we can’t actually see that a particular train is wrong for us until we’ve boarded it.
Yes and no can both be correct answers to “Do you wish to continue?”
At times, “I honestly don’t know” is also correct and the most honest answer we can give. In those situations, sometimes we just have to make the best judgement call we can with the information we have and pray that, moving forward, we will then be better able to discern if we’ve chosen the right path.
So…”Do you wish to continue?”
ps. at the superstore checkout I did wish to continue, and the dog was very pleased as he got his treat, he reckons I made the right choice 🙂
Thanks for reading.