Of Ends, Beginnings and the Beginning of the End

I realize that I should be doing something else. It’s not that I lack for things to do, because I certainly have a growing pile with little end in sight.

But for me that was the trigger… An end. The end. The beginning.

A new year is always a time filled with transitions. People resolve themselves to do things that they haven’t been able to make themselves do in the past. They hope that this go around their will is somehow stronger; their goals more achievable.

It’s been an interesting week so far. Two of my friends are in the process of packing up their apartment to start a new journey. A journey that has no clear path set out before them; no notion of destination, just merely an urge to begin walking again. I had lunch with one friend on Monday who lamented that time is running short, that retirement seems closer this year than the last. Then on Tuesday I had lunch with a different friend is contemplating that the their future starts now, they have things they want to get moving on; changing careers, locations, adding to their family.

And then there’s me. As you may recall I’ve become an avid audiobook fan. Not simply because I am too lazy to read (though I still read actual word books even if more and more it is in a digital format), but because it gives me a better way to spend time in the car on the way to work or dropping off the boys at school. I had recently finished up one book (The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett) and I always like to balance fiction with nonfiction and so I decided to start listening to the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. How’s that for a choice about beginnings and ends.

For those of you who are not familiar with the idea of a “Last Lecture”, it was a trend started a number of years ago on major college campuses where they challenged faculty members to imagine if they had to give their last lecture, what would it be about? Well as it turns out, Randy Pausch was faced with that actual situation as he had terminal cancer and didn’t have long to live (Randy passed away in 2008). Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very upbeat book, but you cannot wade through these types of topics and not at least begin to think about yourself in those situations.

Yes, it’s true that sometimes I can be a pessimist. I currently have no morbid notion of my own end looming overhead (though I live with an awareness that the only moment I am assured is now). Instead I troubled by the thought that I don’t know that I have dreams driving me towards and end.

I don’t think it has anything to do with me being an insomniac, nor do I believe it was that because as a kid I didn’t have dreams of what I would one day do or become. I’m afraid that I’ve just misplaced them.
How sad a thought is that? But I guess it’s really no different than the scene in Hook where Peter Pan(ning) has lost his happy thoughts. I know they are there, somewhere inside, waiting to be rediscovered, reimagined, and most importantly re-dreamed.

I’ve buried them under the everyday, the need to feed my kids, pay the house payment and maybe buy a new iPad 2 in a few months. I’ve hid them away from fears because I do not want to see them get eaten by the scary reality that threatens to take them away.

What if they never happen?
What if I cannot fulfill them?
What if people laugh at me for dreaming them?

I am amazed at how much of our lives and shaped by fear.

We recently finished up the process of hiring a new employee for our department. While I certainly picked up a lot of great one-liners from the various interviews (God I thought they would never end, we had a lot of them), there was one line that stuck a cord with me. One candidate said, “We all know that people fear change. But change is inevitable…” I was stuck by those two thoughts. I realize there is nothing profound in them in and of themselves and that I haven’t strung those two things together a dozen times myself in the past year.

However, I was struck by this rephrase that popped in my head, “We fear the inevitable.” We fear the inevitable. We fear what we cannot change, cannot stop, or alter in any way. I have often said that the only thing we can control in this life is how we react. If we fear what cannot be changed and we can only control our actions then ultimately we can only control the way in which we react to something that we know is coming.

But honestly, how cool is that? Most people are live in fear that they don’t know what is going to happen, yet on the grand scheme of things that simply isn’t true. We know what is going to happen, maybe not how, maybe not when, but it will, it’s certain, foregone. We have an opportunity to be prepared to respond to the thing that we are afraid of in advanced of its happening.

Everything changes. Everything.

Things end. Jobs end. Relationships and even life itself ends. You cannot avoid that. It’s inevitable, but it doesn’t need to be feared, simply prepared for.

You cannot change plans unless you have them.

Make them.

Make plans for today, for tomorrow and for forever even if it never comes. Let those plans be built upon the dreams you had when you were old enough to imagine the world as it should be… as it could be. Dream beyond your fears. Live for the end. Be the beginning.

So here’s to 2011.

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