WRONG WAY, GO BACK.
I walk underneath this sign every day. Every day, on my way to work in marketing and communications for a charity, I look at this sign.
As if I need to see this. I already think it every time my alarm goes off in the morning, every time I eat breakfast, when I get into the shower, when I get out of the shower, on the bus, off the bus... You get the idea.
I've written a bit about mental health, and I've read a lot about mental health through my work for UK male suicide prevention charity, CALM, and now for Australian charitable organisation, Mates4Mates, which provides support, including psychological, to current and ex-serving Defence Force personnel and their families. So it would be easy for me to start talking about anxiety here; thinking about the future, a head full of 'what if's', it's obvious right?
I question my life. I question all of my decision-making up to this point. I wonder if it's a good idea to write this blog post; I'm not sure if leaving the UK was a smart thing to do; I wonder if my choice to come to Australia was the right one; I worry about my future.
I actually wrote this blog post before the EU referendum and the Brexit vote. Wow, how it's taken on a new significance now.
WRONG WAY, GO BACK.
How does the sign know which way is the wrong one? Ok, I haven't completely lost the plot; I know that the sign is based on the Highway Code and there literally is a wrong way to drive down the street. But is there a big ol' sign somewhere in my mind telling me that I'm going the wrong way in life?
Ages ago, I was going to write about the concept of 'gut feeling' or intuition. I've struggled with the idea for a long time because it seems to me nigh on impossible to tell the difference between a gut feeling and anxiety or fear; both are a sensation in the stomach accompanied by a sense that something needs to change.
Similarly, when does thinking become over-thinking? Generally speaking, we'd all agree that considering your options, weighing up pro's and con's, are a good thing; that's what a smart person does in order to decide something important. That's what we all hope happened in the lead up to the EU referendum. But what happens when no amount of list-making, consideration and even meditation can help you to choose which path is the 'right one'? People around you say, "don't over-think it; just go with your gut feeling," that's what.
A writer and business owner friend of mine, when questioned, commented on the topic:
I think I have quite a strong gut instinct on things but I am never really confident enough about whether it's what I want/fear or whether it's the right thing to do. It does confuse me, and I am a real one for thinking things through from all angles as well. So I guess at some point, consideration and gut instinct merge, and in that context I usually follow it and regret it when I don't.
So, in that case, when we follow our gut instinct, what we're doing is heeding the advice our fear is giving us. That can't be right. We hear all the time about these free-spirited people that go with their 'gut instinct' even when the prudent thing to do, the fear-follower's response, would be to abandon whatever ludicracy is on the table and take the safe route.
I press my friend for more:
When I was at the point where I wanted to leave and be in Devon/be more free - lots of things in my head were telling me it was a ridiculous idea. Lots of things in society were telling me it was a ridiculous idea. I had wanted to leave for a long time and was having to weigh up whether it was just being fed up or whether it was actually the right time to leave. In the long term there are always moments when you question yourself, but I think ultimately when I realised I was more afraid to stay than to leave I realised it was the right thing for me at the time.
Ok, now it's making more sense. The questioning is what got my friend to consider leaving work and moving to Devon. The questioning was her friend. The questioning said to her, "WRONG WAY, GO BACK." Or rather, not back, but forward, and even though it was scary and she thought it preposterous for a time - perhaps even 'just' her anxiety - eventually the far scarier option became to remain as she was. Then it became a case of, "WRONG WAY, TRY THIS WAY."
I imagine many Leave voters can relate to this.
But what the sign doesn't offer is any promise that 'THIS WAY' is the right way, merely that the old way was the wrong one.
Life is a series of twists and turns down paths that may turn out to be the WRONG WAY, Brexit included.
All we have to console ourselves with is that, really, there are no 'wrong' ways. There are only ways. And as much as I struggle to accept this in my heart, logically it cannot be denied. Life is a grey area.
Still, it certainly doesn't help to walk underneath that sign every day. Particularly since I voted Remain.
Here are some other views I received when researching this topic that may (or may not, if you're anything like me) help with your decision-making:
Just make a decision and stick to it
Go with your first instinct
Do the thing that you'll regret not doing when you're old
Listen to your heart, you're mind will deceive you
If you're really stuck, flip a coin; you'll know how you really feel by how you react to the result
Break stuff, it helps
Doing anything is better than nothing
I find making a decision after a glass of wine always helps... (Disclaimer: I also have a habit of turning wine into regrets)
Talk to lots of people and remember there are no bad decisions since you will never know what would have happened if you went the other way.
Ask yourself, if I must make the decision RIGHT NOW what would it be? There's your answer.
When in doubt, sit on it
All life is a risk
Let me know what you think in the comments below.