It's the last day of April, and for me, the last day of the semester. Hallelujah.
Everywhere I turn, people are packing up and moving out. Finishing classes, saying goodbyes, graduating, moving on to different things...
The world is abundant with endings today.
And as humans, we tend not to like endings. In general, we think they're sad.
Except for endings like strenuous runs or hard classes, which are victorious.
But here's a little secret about endings. We need them.
We need finish lines and goals and even the goodbyes. Without them, we would accomplish much less, under-appreciate most things, and sell ourselves short in almost every way. And life, even though it goes on, would lose much of its savor.
Endings push us beyond the limits we put for ourselves. One excellent example is the story of Florence Chadwick, a brilliant swimmer who enjoyed pushing the limits. She swam the English Channel both ways, and had decided to do a long-distance swim along the coastline of California. It was a foggy day, and she swam for hours despite barely being able to see the support boats alongside her. After fifteen exhausting hours, she finally relented to the chilly water and her aching muscles, and asked to be pulled into the boats. They continued to land and discovered that Florence had swum all but half a mile of her intended distance. Upon learning this, she said, "All I could see was the fog. I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it."
Setting a goal and seeing the finish line helps us to dig deeper within ourselves and push through the tiredness, the aches and pains, and whatever else comes our way. Going on an endless swim into the ocean, we're more likely to sell ourselves short and stop before we realize how close we are to achieving our goals.
The other opportunity that endings afford us is a moment to reflect back on what we've done and who we've become. It's usually the most natural time for people to say things they should have been saying all along: "Thank you for being a good friend," "I'm glad to have you in my life," "You are a quality human being and I hope you have a wonderful life." You know, those things that your friends might write in a yearbook, given they actually know you and are sincere about the things they write in yearbooks. Without the goodbyes we have to say, I fear we would take a lot more relationships for granted. We would fail to express our appreciation and respect for each other like we should. Our relationships would be much less fulfilling on the whole if we never had to face the reality of saying goodbye.
When we realize that endings come and at some point, we must all be left, or leave ourselves, I think we gain a better understanding of how valuable the present moment is. We tend to spend our time better, realizing that it will come to an end. We won't always be at this place, with these people, doing these things. We'll have to move on some day. And turns out, that day is rapidly approaching.
So as much as we must seize the day, I find that we must also embrace the endings.