On the Atlantic I felt really trapped. Trapped on a boat that was going far more slowly than I had expected. Trapped by my own stubborn pride into not quitting, no matter what. Trapped by the relentless routine of 12 hours of rowing a day.
Then one day, my mother gave me a gift.
We were talking on the satellite phone, and she told me that a couple more of the crews competing in the Atlantic Rowing Race, in which I was also a competitor, had arrived in Antigua. Of course, as the only solo female in the race, I could be expected to be slower than the other crews, but it still stung. I was so incredibly envious of them being back on dry land. I would have given almost anything to be ashore.
I confess, I had a bit of a cry.
And my mother, bless her, resisted the urge to point out that it was all my own stupid fault. Instead, she said, “Rosalind, do you want to give up? We could ask the support boat to come and get you. You’ve given it a good shot. Nobody would think less of you if you gave up now.”
My first reaction was, “YES, I want to give up!!!”
But almost immediately a second response kicked in. I knew that my future self would never forgive my present self if I gave up now (see my article on the Retrospective Perspective). I had put all my savings and 14 months of my life into preparing for this. There was no way I was going to quit.
And I went back to my oars, determined to row every last stroke until I reached land.
What my dear old Mum did for me in that moment was to remind me that I had a choice. I didn’t have to stay on the boat. There were options. And she allowed me to dig deep and find the will to carry on. I went from the weakness of “I’m trapped” to the strength of “I choose to persevere”.
We all, always, have a choice. There is always a way to give up, opt out, escape our situation. So if we choose to keep on keeping on, we can give ourselves a pat on the back and say, “well done, you chose to stay the course”.