The Beginning of the End

“It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” ― Paulo Coelho

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Too often, the end of something can seem like the end of everything.

This is final exams week for me. More importantly, for a lot of students. I don’t get to graduate and move on to the next chapter. I keep starting all over again every Fall semester. But for me, what’s making me so happy, is the end of this year-long “hostage crisis”.  It has kept the college experience so bound up and all that determination shackled. We will go back to more normal on June1.

“Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.” ― Tom Stoppard

There are many endings that I have experienced over the past several years. Most have been heartbreaking. The truth is, like a graduation, every ending that any of us experiences always holds within it the promise of some sort of beginning. These come in all shapes and sizes, filled with expectation, fears and plenty of unknown.

When I graduated from college, marriage was right around the corner. It seemed as if I jumped off one speeding train and was on another just like that. I wish I’d had someone to help me figure out where I was going. Maybe I was too young and full of myself to have listened. My students are headed off into the dark mystery of the world of work, graduate school, moving away, searching for new relationships and many with just a big look on their faces – maybe it’s not sure how to explain what they are so uncertain about.

Isn’t there something you can do?

There may be people in your life who are peering around the corner, looking at their own future with a little anxiety. What a great opportunity for you to add some reassurance, some stories about your own shaky knees way back then, and maybe a word of two of personal affirmation. Steer clear of those generic words of wisdom that always fall flat. Make it meaningful.

“This day will never come again and anyone who fails to eat and drink and taste and smell it will never have it offered to him again in all eternity. The sun will never shine as it does today…But you must play your part and sing a song, one of your best. ” ― Hermann Hesse

Physical contact has been so limited this past year. It makes us now want to reach out to others with more intention, to be extra conscious with our words and actions.

It’s not just another high school graduation, is it?

There are people missing from this one. But you aren’t. Find a way to make your presence count, even with just a kind word to that someone out of your ordinary.

Even that mysterious lady I bumped into out the courtyard today, who didn’t really fit in but seemed to need a hello.

Of course, because it’s the end of the semester, that means almost everyone moves onward to the next step. But it also means there’s typically someone who has failed. I can tell stories about that experience too, can’t you? Failures can teach us so much, or they trap us in our past. Every experience is a chance to learn more about who we are and what the world around us is really like.

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” ― Aldous Huxley

What did your failure teach you?

Be honest with yourself so you can be honest with people who need you. My problem has always been that I let yesterdays failures have too much power over my todays. They need to get resolved and then buried. Resolutions don’t always produce solutions. Don’t treat your failures like buried treasures to be hunted the rest of your life, but like the weather. Something to think about every now and then, but never expect to feel on your upturned face again.

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Let your endings turn into a beginning of something true, something taking you forward. Turn loose of mistakes and burdens, bury them for good. Learn your lessons and keep your nose pointed forward. Find someone in your life who will tell you the truth and stick it out with you. Forgive, not just your friends, your enemies, but yourself. This sounds too much like a greeting card. Secretly, I wish I could write song lyrics.

“Great is the art of beginning, but even greater is the art of ending.” ― Henry Wadsworth 

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