I’ve always loved the beginnings of things. Standing on the precipice of something old and mundane, gazing out into the blissful unknown, digging my toes into the ground and waiting for the right moment to take off. The beginnings of things. Where my heart is nervous, and excited, and challenged, and intrigued. Where my mind grows at every glance across the abyss because it’s all new and rare. Where nothing else matters but that beginning of a thing.
Someone who barely knew me once rebutted my rather rhetorical remark with, “That’s because you’re distracted.” At first, I was offended and defensive. But then I began to replay moments, instances over the past year. Instances that have made me cringe, ones that made me happy, ones that made me cry and ones that made me introspect. I played them over and over to try to glean some wisdom from them. And ended up with nothing.
Then I thought about the people around me. Those who I want to support and challenge and coexist with. Those who I want to be there for when they hadn’t expected to need me around. Those who I want to recreate the assumptions of the world with. Those people who make me tick and tock and tick and tock until we eventually go nuts from it all. I thought about the instances in which we had succeeded to build what we had started- and truly create something that would still be there many years later.
The thing is, there are two kinds of things you can create in a lifetime: there’s physical stuff and well, not so physical stuff. Building someone a home: physical stuff. Teaching a class of students about the innards of a brain: not so physical stuff. Making a website to connect people around the world: physical stuff. Connecting with people around the world on a website: not so physical stuff.
At the beginnings of things, we tell ourselves we will create something. Regardless of which of the two creations we choose, we commit to the creation. The notion of creating a thing is blissful- it’s genuine, eager, almost blind. And for some reason, when the end of a thing stretches a bit too far beyond our imagination, beyond what we can perceive, beyond all our current experiences- we falter.
And it’s in that faltering- in that fear of the unknown- that keeps us from persevering past the beginning of a thing. The beginning is simple- it’s full of ideas and possibility. The end is simpler still- it’s full of accomplishment and success. The body, though, the body is the hard part. It’s where the thing sucks most.
The body of a thing takes vulnerability- it takes putting your life, happiness, security, accomplishment, and creation, all on the same line in the same shaky hands with hopes that the line ends where you had pictured it to end at the beginning of the thing. It’s quite the absurdity.
But the thing about creations is that there are two: the physical and the not so physical. With the physical creation, the end is always part of the beginning. The end is always something that instigated the beginning: We wanted to make someone a home to live in- so we envisioned it, we began it, and we built it. The end. The body is still tough, and full of vulnerability, but the end is always part and parcel of the beginning.
With the not so physical creations, though, the end is much less tangible. We can tell ourselves we want to teach a class of students about the innards of a brain- we can even put an end date on that teaching- a level of comprehension that we hope to achieve, but the creation is never quite complete. The creation was a fascination amongst others with the brain, and that success is entirely dependent upon the ongoing rebirth of that fascination. It’s growing and diminishing and coming and going. It’s ever changing, and therefore, without end.
But to get through the body, we need ends. We need milestones inside the body that let us breathe a sigh of successful relief for just one moment before we dive back into the thick of it all. We need to remind ourselves we are working towards a tangible outcome, that our efforts are not in vain, and that turning back to the beginning of a new thing is not the right direction to go in.
Sometimes we stand at the precipice and have no idea what the end looks like, yet we still jump. We hope the line will catch us and point us to what’s next. We risk all that we stand in front of for the rabbit hole that lay ahead. And yet we jump. There’s courage in that jump, but then there’s selfishness in it, too.
The beginnings of things are inherently selfish- they take and think about the possibility of giving. The ends of things are selfless- they give and think about what’s next to begin. The bodies of things are where the creation occurs, and the body can only exist when there’s a beginning and an end.
So begin. And end. And at some point let me know if you figure out how to get comfortable being uncomfortable within the innards of it all.