The Strangeness of the Finish Line.

horses racing toward the finish lineI wrote yesterday about passing the milestone of my last BSF class for the year and that I now need to be sure I have a new goal to fill the time left empty by the completion of that stretch. A memory from grad school came to mind as I re-read the post. A fellow speech grad student had her masters speech recital, straining every nerve, as one does, to get the performance ready and then, well, perform it. She did a good job (although for the life of me I can’t remember what her material was) and then she had a real struggle with depression once it was over.

It was hard for her to get going again, as that huge push was now gone. She needed some time to adjust to the new reality and to move forward.

My friend had a classic “hard” deadline, the date of her recital. But often we have only self-imposed, “soft” deadlines, and we Obligers struggle with meeting those. I’ve realized in my own life that, weird as it seems, I sometimes unconsciously hold myself back from just going ahead and finishing projects because I’m afraid I won’t have anything to do if I get everything done. Back at our old house in Virginia, for example, I worried that we’d run out of gardening/landscaping work and I’d be left with nothing to do out in the yard. (This fear was completely misplaced, let me hasten to assure you.) And I’ve seen the same strange reluctance here. Of late I’ve taken to asking myself, ‘What would life be like if I just went ahead and did all thee things I’m carrying around in my head?’ It’s almost as if I feel comforted by the fact that I have a backlog. I’ve been asking myself recently, ‘What would it be like to just plunge in and get those cooking e-books done, and the music articles up for sale, and the book on love and relationships done? And the audio version of my current book? How would that feel, to be, in a sense, caught up?’

My husband has said, in a similar vein, that sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world to actually finish a project in the software development world. There’s some kind of threshold or speed bump that seems to show up right at the end. If there’s no hard deadline, there’s a tendency for the project to stall. People seem almost afraid to go ahead and complete it. Recently Jim and I have been involved with switching platforms for my website, and there have been endless tweaks and delays. Finally he said last week, “I just need to go ahead and do it. We’ll have some issues to fix, but every time I import all your posts and then don’t make the switch, you write new posts on the old platform and then I have to deal with those. I’m just going to grit my teeth and do it.’ There’s still approximately one ton of work to be done in getting everything to look right, but at least we’re now where we need to be. This website switch is a classic instance of a project with no hard deadline. No one was making us do this; we decided for ourselves that it was needed and set our own goals. So it was easy to keep delaying the final step. I think we made the decisions last fall, and now it’s May. (Now that I think about it, we made the decision to sell the house and move at about the same time.)

Have you ever felt a weird back-and-forth tug about finishing a project? How did you overcome it? (Or did you?)

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