Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Endings and beginnings

My life has been a bit of a wild ride lately. I’m not complaining, merely observing, that having a birthday, attending two intellectual conferences (presenting at one), deciding to move half-way across the country, quitting a job and leaping into self-employment, all within the space of two months, is a lot. I’ve had to reset my thinking about the world and my place in it several times in rapid succession.

While overwhelming, I think this is good. When we become too comfortable, we cease growing; it’s these periods of rapid acceleration that help us see who we really are and uncover new potential, but boy, this has been a roller-coaster. It’s included quite a few goodbyes and hellos with more coming and, I’ve realized, this is something we’re not taught to handle, not in school, not in work, not in most of our lives.

Endings and beginnings happen all the time. From the first time we go to school (both an ending and a beginning) to our deaths (an ending and maybe a beginning) we have repeated opportunities to shed the old and embrace the new. American culture, at least, teaches us that it’s the beginnings that matter, far more than the endings, yet I think there are strong lessons to be learned from each. The last few months have really highlighted that for me.

Last week I left a job I’d held for over 12 years. In that time I’d grown, stagnated, succeeded, failed, helped and hurt the organization I worked for. Over my last few weeks at this company I had many people tell me that they didn’t want me to leave, that the place would never be the same. I didn’t really know how to respond at first but, as I thought about it, I realized this was an opportunity not only for me, but for the organization. Sure, I represented something there. Sure, I hold knowledge that may not be replaced. But my absence allows the company to look for new solutions to the holes I had filled, find new and possibly better ways to solve problems. It allows the organization to grow mindfully, just as I am growing mindfully by leaving. I take with me a wealth of experience and lessons learned - it wasn’t time wasted. It’s at once an ending and a beginning.

It’s the same thing as I leave the New England storytelling community for a cross-country move. 
This is the community that has nurtured me, held me, shaped me and helped me become the teller and person I am now. And I’ve had an impact on this community, organizing events, mentoring new tellers and so on. As I leave, there are voids that will open up, places into which others can grow. As I leave, it’s the end of a period of my life, but a new one begins. It’s a time of rich possibility. 

There is that trite saying, For every door that closes a window opens. I don’t know if this is always true, but I do know that endings create opportunity for reflection and growth that we would not otherwise receive. Endings create space we might not have otherwise noticed. Endings are a kind of beginning, if only because they provide an opportunity for a pause in the midst of an otherwise busy world. I wish we valued endings more, or at least were more willing to talk about them - even the hardest of endings give us opportunities to do what we might not have otherwise done.

The hero needs to ride off into the sunset before she can find her next adventure. The town needs to bid her adieu before they can build the next great thing. We need to cry, grieve, mourn before we can move on. Buried in each ending is possibility and the potential for new worlds. Even in midst of our own deaths, if we are lucky, there is opportunity for new experience and growth. Even as we say goodbye to those we love, we can create new stories, new memories and new relationships.

Treasure your endings and do not consider them failures. They are the universe reminding us that now is the time to grow, to go, to take wing and fly. We never know what might happen next.

Failing and Flying

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was 
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky 
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy. 
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell, 
but just coming to the end of triumph.

(c)2012 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. Packing up and moving far away was hard but absolutely great for me and for my life. You are so wise!

    1. Thank you for the reminder that I am following in a long and honored tradition!

  2. As always, great commentary on life - and a great poem too. It is funny (?) but over the years I look back at past jobs and re-evaluate what I did and how I did it. Especially earlier on in my careers I used to think I was brilliant, fabulous and Was Always Right. But on these reflections, I have understood that I was tarnished, failing and arrogant. And I tried and try to grow.

    Now, as I get closer to 50 years old than I ever thought I would, that process is a lot faster. I cringe at what I do and try to fix it and not repeat it. I am fortunate to know people who are very willing to kick me in the right direction, or gently remind me of other ways of doing things. Thanks Laura (for being one of those people and), for letting us all know we are not alone and those who we put greatness upon also fall after the triumph. I could say that I will miss you and Kevin, but you will always be within reach, so there is no need! Thank you.

    1. Funny, I've followed the same trajectory. I used to think I hit the mark Every Time. Now I question if I ever hit the mark and notice the errors, the places where I can improve. The real growth is that I take note of what I can do better next time and rarely despair.

      I could certainly say we'll miss you, too, but we are really only a pixel away. And we'll be at STF, so see you soonish!


  3. Lovely posting, Laura. Oddly enough it spoke directly to something happening right now in my own life. But then that's what writers do, isn't it? Crystallize the universal in the personal. My first response to change is panicked paralysis. Your words were inspiring.

    1. I panic, too, but (and it's a big but (big butt?)) if I'm smart and lucky, sometimes I take a breath and remind myseld that change is what makes us who we are, that change hones us and without change life would be awfully dull...
      Thank you for your kind words here. I'm glad my writing helped.

  4. Laura, you are a wise and brave woman, and I wish you only wonderful things. All the best on your grand adventure!

    "Life is a daring adventure or nothing." -Helen Keller-


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