Last week, we talked about being (or not being) a “short-timer,” and checking out of a situation before it’s actually ended just because you know the end is near. The time does eventually come, though, for things to wrap up. If you’ve been mindfully patient and checked-in during your final few weeks in a job, an internship, an academic program, or anything for that matter, it can be tough to hang on to that mindset so that you can end well. But, how you manage the finish line itself is as important as how you manage the home stretch that got you there.
The idea that getting to the finish line is all that matters makes sense. It’s how you run the race, and the fact that you do cross the finish line that counts, right? If you played sports of pretty much any kind when you were younger, you know that isn’t true. Just as you were ready to sprint away after declaring victory, your coach would wrangle the team together for some closing notes, and moments of good sportsmanship, high-fiving the other team for a game well-played. Although you probably found the extra time and gestures tedious, in retrospect you likely now recognize their importance. How you win is, at the very least, as important as if you win. That doesn’t change when you grow up.
Last week, we talked about the transient nature of life as a graduate student. The entire experience is full of beginnings and endings, and situations that are temporary by nature. Yes, it’s a microcosm of life itself, but in such a condensed version, it can feel a little unnatural, and at times unreal. To make the most of it, however, you have to be good at the wrap-up, beyond the finish line. While you may still have that same instinct you did on the t-ball field to sprint for whatever’s next as soon as the game is over, take a breath. Look around. Who’s still there? Who’s not leaving (either staying behind, or staying with you)? Who was instrumental in making the experience valuable, meaningful, and maybe even possible for you? Take a moment to acknowledge their role, and their investment in you, and not just with a parting “thanks,” but really, mindfully from your heart. Use the skills in mindful listening and compassion that your mindfulness practice has taught you to make sure your final note is as clear and lasting as the impact you (hopefully) made in the space while you were there.
Once you’ve ended well, then as we say in mindfulness, let it go. When you’ve said your goodbyes, and even more so, your thank-yous, then it really is time to head out and move on. Of course, if you made new friends and contacts, you can mindfully maintain those relationships, but it is time at this point to let your attention shift to your new present moment. You’ll be doing so knowing that you closed your previous chapter intentionally. As a coach myself, I’ll give you a high-five for that.
Photo credit: Will Langenberg