"The beginning is the most important part of the work." - Plato
"We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come." - Joseph Campbell
I’ve been thinking a lot about the transitions we go through and what helps us feel excited and energized about them… or not.
The quotes for today resonated with me because in the back of my mind I saw some sort of choice we make coming into play during the transition between the end of one thing and the start of the next. I think it is fair to say that we can each find examples of a new beginning not being so freeing and exciting. I can think of a few in my own history that were not as hopeful and full of possibility as it seems that they could have been. What went wrong? What was the difference when compared to those other experiences that were exhilarating?
Plato is talking about the beginning of a thing being the most important part, but I keyed in on the final word of his quote, “work”. An ending, a beginning, it takes some amount of work. It is easy to understand that there is the work of learning something new, of putting energy into a new endeavor but what about the work of ending the previous thing? What does it take to finish a thing?
I think that part of what holds us back from all that something new has to offer is the unfinished work behind us that we carry along. In some situations it is hard to pull too much of the past into the next thing because of environmental shifts. Moving to a new school, changing careers, moving to a new city, these things create a stronger break with the past and make it more natural to explore the possibilities of where you are and what you need to do. But there are other transitions that are not so clear cut. There are times that the past clings to us so strongly that it still feels heavy and restrictive.
The second quote speaks to this idea in a more global, life-long sense. To get the benefit of going forward to new things and finding energy in the possibilities that exist, we must shed the “old skin” which will make room for the new. If your cup is already full, then the new experiences can’t fill you up.
Perhaps it takes some specific sort of work on our behalf to mark somethings as being part of the old skin. Maybe we have a choice to make during the various transitions in our lives. Picking something up obviously takes energy. This is a case where putting it down also takes effort.
Let’s invest some time and energy in wrapping up the past so that whatever comes next can be energizing, fulfilling, and meaningful!