It’s the last week of 2017, which means another year is about to go into the books. It seems like just a few days ago that we were celebrating the new year and anticipating all of the great things that 2017 would bring us. Now, all of those expectations, accomplishments, and maybe even disappointments are in the past as we say goodbye to this year. It certainly feels like an ending to me.
I’ve recently experienced an ending in my own life: the shuttering of a writing project I’d been working on all year. It was a great experience, but it was time to say goodbye, and so I did in an intentional, conclusive way. I’ve never ended a project so officially before, so it was a kind of ending I’d never experienced.
Due to the time of year and season of life I find myself in, I’ve been thinking lately about endings in general: what they are, what they mean, and how to handle them. I won’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I have been spent some time on it, so I thought I might share my reflections on endings during this time when I’m experiencing a few of my own.
An ending initially involves losing something. Whether it be a period of time, a creative endeavor, a relationship, or anything else, when something ends, it’s gone. That’s what an ending is: the event of something coming to a close. And that loss usually involves at least some amount of sadness. Even if you’re glad to be ending something, it still involves a loss of some kind. And that loss can leave you feeling vulnerable or even incomplete. You’ve gotten used to having something in your life, and suddenly, it’s gone. That can be disconcerting, even if it’s an ending that you’ve been looking forward to.
Endings also include an element of change. When something goes away, everything left behind cannot stay the same. There has to be some reshaping, some compensating, or some supplementing to fill in the space where the ended thing once was. Or there can be a giant hole, I suppose, but that in itself is also a pretty significant change. Either way, your life is different after an ending than it was before. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big fan of change. Even good changes can cause anxiety for those of us who prefer the status quo, but endings force us to face change in one way or another.
But that’s not all. Because endings give us an opportunity for learning. I’ve found that I do some of my best reflection when I’m coming to the end of something big. (Thus, this blog post.) An ending is a time to look back on your experiences, synthesize what you’ve learned, and integrate it into your mindset going forward. Whether an ending is positive or negative, there is always something to be learned from it, and in that way, any ending can have a positive impact on one’s life.
Similarly, an ending can be a time of growth. I believe that we are each called to be constantly developing in response to the things we experience in our lives, and I’ve found that these endings are great times to practice that. When we’re learning and experiencing change, we can allow those things to shape who we are, how we think, and what we do in the future. In doing so, we give value to these endings, regardless of how we feel about them. If we allow these endings to spur growth in the right direction, we can redeem even the most bitter of endings and come out the other side of them changed for the better.
And ultimately, endings make room for new beginnings. I’ll get more into that next week, but here’s the gist: Endings happen for a reason. Whether it’s to learn a lesson, free up time, or create space in your life for something you really need, an ending is always meant to give way to something new. But in order to prepare for and fully take advantage of that opportunity, one must first go through the loss, change, learning, and growth that endings bring. Once you’ve successfully navigated your ending, you’re ready for a new beginning. More on that next week.