What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
Isn’t the quote above lovely? It’s so relevant at the moment, as I end one stage of life, and begin a new one. I’m not sure whether I’m at the start or the end. Maybe the end of the ending, moving into the start of the beginning? I think maybe reaching the end of a long workplace transition period is the best way to describe it. And it’s a strange period to be in, but it’s increasingly common.
I hope by explaining my current experiences and one of the key reasons I am finding it challenging, I can understand it better and help those of you going through something similar.
The end is where we start from
I discovered the T.S Eliot quote yesterday in the foreword of a book I don’t remember ever receiving. Obviously I must have, I guess, because it was in one of our bookcases, along with many other books I don’t recognise, and know I’ve never read. It’s one of many discoveries I’m making as I clean and purge through bookcases, cupboards, files and drawers.
I’ve been cleaning and sorting my home over the past few days. It’s given me a focus as I mull over the opportunities to clean and sort my life, my priorities, and where I’d like to head into the future, as my working life is changing again.
Yes, the six month contract I trusted myself to take earlier this year ended last week.
It’s time to step into another arena of trust – this time, finishing a job without another lined up. This is an approach I’ve taken intentionally. I’ve wanted to take some time to reflect, appreciate the experiences I’ve had to date, and start to shape the direction I want to head. I’ve got some space to do this. I can avoid becoming engrossed in a new role’s issues before I’ve let go of the last one. Plus I’ve got space for non-work activities (yay!) and just to do very little (double yay!)
So it’s all good – well, kind of.
In reality, it’s a time where my emotions are up and down. I feel positive one minute, because I have a break, freedom, time to try the things I’ve never been able to, opportunities!
And then I dive into negatives – it’s scary letting go of my long held idea of security, the responsibility I feel to others (especially my husband and kids), and to trust that the tradeoff will be worth it.
Maybe you’ve experienced this too? I wonder if you can identify with the one of the reasons I struggle with it.
Comfort vs challenge
I’ve always trusted in the idea of security. There is a comfort in the known. I know that comfort – sticking to things that are familiar and accessible (easy to grasp and do) – can be a way of making us feel safe.
But I’ve realised for me, there is something even bigger than the familiar and the accessible and that’s the idea of ‘coherence’. Susan David‘s book ‘Emotional Agility‘ has introduced me to this concept and it’s me to a tee.
‘Coherence’ is a way we learn to make the familiar and understandable feel ‘right’ – make sense – fall into place – which is part of the way we make sense of the world.
I naturally move toward making things coherent. I spend my life trying to sort and catalogue, spatially plan and mentally structure. I am always looking at complex issues going on in the world and trying to simplify them so I can make them fit a narrative that makes sense. I think many of us do , or the idea of ‘simplifying’ our lives which really has huge appeal at the moment. And, on one level, this is a good thing.
Simple is good. But sometimes we go a step further and confuse ‘simple’ with ‘simplistic’, don’t we? (just look at the speed at which people judge on social media as an example). Sometimes simple is not, actually, that easy to do. And simplistic can be really problematic:
- Maybe not everything can be broken down into a short sentence or two – or a meme?
- Maybe what is known isn’t always best?
- Maybe by oversimplifying without thinking we lose something valuable in the process?
- Maybe the path to be followed can’t be identified until it’s explored?
- And maybe the best approach can’t be known unless we fully embrace challenges, being prepared to potentially fail along the way?
As an example – I love getting into a warm bed. But, as tempting as it is to linger when I have the chance, I know that long sleep-in now upsets my rhythm and mood for the rest of the day. I still resist getting up at a reasonable hour (it’s still so cold!), but I’m slowly recognising the need to accept the day pans out a lot better if I don’t sleep in. It seems the same applies when I linger too long without challenging myself to new experiences. It might feel coherent – I feel like I know what I’m doing – but I lose the motivation to keep going. The interest wanes.
For me, the idea of coherence has always involves not risking security for more challenging and rewarding opportunities. I’ve read enough about the challenges for women in gaining work, especially if they take a break, and it does play on my mind. It’s been a risk I haven’t been prepared to take (oh, that and financial security. Just a little matter!) So I’ve tended to play things fairly safely in terms of my work (and, to be honest, life in general).
The value of ending and beginning again
I’m now realising that this coherence, or security, looks ok close up. But that security can be a bit of a mirage when you view it from a distance. It can come at a cost:
- I can put too much faith in the security of work. Nowadays, work is not always secure – even if it’s ‘permanent’.
- In fact, in the long run, staying put for security reasons, and not growing in the process can be more risky than taking a chance.
- Trying to avoid nerve wracking situations can backfire – I can become more and more risk adverse, and start finding less threatening activities become scary. Not the intention!
On the flip side – When I’ve taken a chance, often it pays off. Not always as I expect, but I’ve benefitted. It’s been worth it.
Let’s hope – no, trust – that it will pay off this time!
When have you taken a risk in life and what have you learnt as a result?