Yes, You Did
Sometimes one might think – and at times speak aloud – “I didn’t sign up for this.” Most often the appropriate response is: “Yes, you did.”
The I-didn’t-sign-up-for-this attitude can easily be used as an excuse to opt out of responsibilities that are unpleasant or deemed too demanding. Key word: responsibility. Commitments vary in importance, and there are times when opting out might be the prudent thing to do. But all too often people forsake an obligation willingly made because the range of responsibilities or hardships exceeded expectations. While circumstances may change, it behooves one to carefully consider how reneging on a given commitment will affect both oneself and others.
Example. Over a two-year period beginning in 1980, Don Starkell paddled in a canoe 12,000 miles from Winnipeg, Manitoba to the mouth of the Amazon River via the Red River, Mississippi River, Intercoastal Waterway, Gulf of Mexico, Orinoco River, Rio Negro and down the Amazon River to its mouth at Belem, Brazil. The trip was challenging in the extreme. He began the journey with two sons, but one of them quit the adventure along the Mexican coast. This resulted in additional burdens for Don and his remaining son. It may have been a prudent decision in the jumped-ship-son’s mind, but the abrogation of his original commitment surely had dramatic effects on others.
Whether the commitment is to a relationship (parenting, marriage, friendship), employment, a team sport, a social organization, or whatever, the responsible course is to analyze every angle of the situation – especially the likely consequences of withdrawing– before terminating that commitment. Again, differing contexts will vary with regard to the value, or lack thereof, of the repercussions attendant to quitting. But assessing that value is vital to the decision-making process.
Indeed, many unexpected things happen when one “signs up” for various things in life. That reality should cause us to use extreme caution before “signing the dotted line,” and when contemplating the discontinuance of a pledge made.