Sometimes All You Need Is A Semicolon
I recently had great conversation with a colleague, Denise. She’s in the process of earning her degree in Computer Science. She works full time and is forced to complete her homework for three classes late into the night, often sacrificing sleep as she finishes up her studies at 2:00 am.
I asked her if she liked coding and programming, at which she quickly replied, “I hate it!” I was taken aback by her response, since she was majoring in Computer Science, I assumed she would love to work with code.
“I will sit and stare at the endless lines of code and try and figure out what I’m doing wrong.” She continued. “My brain feels like mush and I get so frustrated when I can’t figure out what I’m missing.” She shook her head and crossed her arms and frowned as she recalled many frustrating nights being stuck on a particular software code that wasn’t working out for her.
“Finally, I would contact my instructor and he would advise me to shut off my computer, walk away and allow my brain to slow down. I would take a break and then get back to the project. My instructor would then ask me, ‘Denise, do you see it?’” She dramatically slapped her hand on her forehead, her eyes widened as she recalled her memory of the interaction with your instructor.
“Damn! I forgot a semicolon!” Her eyes narrowed and she smiled at me. “Once I put in that stupid semicolon, that stupid program would work. It was that simple!”
The semicolon is one of the most underutilized grammatical tools in the English language AND in life. A semicolon is used to indicate a pause in a sentence. It’s used to join two independent statements within a sentence, but becomes necessary because although the clauses are independent from each other, they are also related to some degree and must be joined together. The semicolon serves a critical purpose that is often overlooked.
Our lives play out like grand stories. Just like a great novel steeped with captivating prose, our lives are made up pivotal events like key sentences in a novel. These events are independent of each other, but also related. We cannot simply engage our present situation without acknowledging our past and preparing for the future. The semicolon is the key to make the code work in a software program or a sentence flow on paper and for our lives to make sense as we struggle to connect our experiences.
So what can we learn from the semicolon and how can we apply it our lives today? The semicolon is a pause, a chance for us to catch our breath and to absorb our experiences. Unlike a period; however, it doesn’t mark the end. By applying the power of the semicolon, we understand that a pause is necessary, but acknowledge that there is more to come and this particular journey in our life is not over.
It’s okay to pause and gather your thoughts, but it’s not okay to give up or start over, or fail to appreciate where you came from. We’ve made mistakes and we’ve made bad choices, but it’s a part of us, so acknowledge it. We must learn from our mistakes and experiences and find the courage to keep moving.
Sometimes, like Denise, we get stuck. We bang our heads against a particular problem or obstacle, when all we really need to do is pause, reflect, collect our thoughts and approach our situation from a different mindset. We may be on the right path, we just need a break. A simple semicolon or pause may be the breakthrough we need. What area of your life are you struggling with right now? Is it time to plug in a semicolon?