Swaparoo: The Finish!

Hello everyone, Special treat for those of you who are getting tired of me. My good friend Steph, who is in Sea Tea Improv with me and with whom I share a sense of the ridiculous, has engaged in a good old-fashioned blog swap with me today. We were both attempting to post every day for the month of November (I failed... but the day's not over yet!). I wrote about hobbies over at her blog, Hooked on Hobbies, and she wrote about what's on her mind, like I tend to do. (Do I have a tendency? I have no idea. I'm really just making this up.)

Please enjoy her thoughts, and go check out her blog for my post about not having hobbies, and more useful topics like knitting fingerless gloves!

-- Julia


I like finishing things. I know that everyone does, but in my head where I am the star of my own life story, I like to think I get even more pleasure from it then most people. I enjoy the entire experience of getting from nothing to finished. From the first incremental steps, to the often infuriating middle area (which always feels like it takes twice as long as every other part), to the final rush to "complete". That tipping point where the end is just in sight can often create in me an obsessive single-mindedness. There have been many days where I stayed late at work because I didn't want to leave in the middle of an assignment, many nights where I didn't sleep because I was "so close" to finishing the book I was reading, and many weekends where I have started some hobby project on a Friday only to get tunnel vision until suddenly its Sunday night and I haven't done anything else for two whole days.

The joy of being done has a dark side, though...being haunted by the "unfinished".

I started doing Taekwon-do when I was in middle school and progressed well through the ranks over the years. In the beginning of 2004, I had a high red belt on my waist and was faced with the reality of moving to New Jersey for college in a few months. I delighted in the idea that I had just enough time to earn and test for my black belt. I would be "finished" just in time for college. Unexpectedly, though, the school closed in the middle of the planning for my test. This is the first time I can remember being so close to a goal and not getting there....the anger and frustration are still fresh and raw in my mind these 8 years later.

Many aspects of my life now often suffer the same fate. When I first started crafting I worked on one thing at a time, until it was done. Now I have more projects then I want to confess to in various stages of completion, and though it is unbelievably difficult to admit...I know that some of these projects will never get finished. I've got a large cross stitching project stashed away I haven't looked at in months. Practicing guitar, which really has no "done" point, is something I keep meaning to do more of. I've got stacks of books I want to read, and don't want to consider that I never will. All these unfinished things are like burrs under my skin. I try not to think about them, hoping the disappointment and irritation of the undone will go away.

More recently I've tried giving myself personal challenges with a clear start and end. "Run a total of forty miles this month" I think to myself. Ok. Bit by bit the miles add up in my google document keeping track until I have only 3 left. It makes me get out of bed when I am tired, makes me run even when I don't want to, and I pat myself on the back when I am done. "Post in your blog everyday for a month" I think. Ok. Entry after entry I write, not with the most care or effort, but because each little bit adds up to something. Anything. And after 30 days and 30 posts I've completed something.

Each finished thing is like a shot of joy, accomplishment and adrenaline. I get addicted to the finish. When one project is completely successful, I seek out another. The other side to that coin is that it sometimes feels like the only thing that is getting me through each subsequent thing I need to do, is the energy I got from finishing the last....much like swinging from vine to vine, the momentum is the main thing that keeps me moving forward. So what, then, is to keep me pushing forward when there is no end in sight?

I've noticed more and more that so much of my life can't be placed within a start and a finish. I am starting my career now, no longer working for a summer or on a yearly contract or a two week temp job...but from "a while ago" to "who knows when". My assignments at work are no longer as tactily clear in showing completion as "grade this finite stack of tests" or "finish filing this paperwork" was. If /when I get married or have children, I will never stop being a mother or a wife (that's the plan, at least). A large part of my life these past two years has been trying to eat healthier and get into better shape. Although setting calorie limits or a goal weight to hit has helped me on my way, I had a startling realization the other day: I will never be finished. If I want to stay healthy and fit then this whole "watching what I eat and exercising", just like this whole "having a career", just like this "worrying about money", just like so many facets of living...they are now just a part of my life. Forever unfinished.