Hamilton’s July 3 debut as a film gave me chills and brought me back to my wondrous first viewing in a theatre. One of the most powerful moments is Christopher Jackson playing George Washington singing One Last Time of his decision to resign from the presidency:
We’re gonna teach ’em how to
One last time
— One Last Time, Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
I’ve also reached the end of one of my coaching programs with the Co-Active Institute(CTI), which comprised of a weekly ritual with our group of ten that’s helped stabilize me through this wildly unpredictable 2020. So I’m thinking a lot about endings, new beginnings, and the spaces in between.
I tend to be a restless person and a speed freak, moving seamlessly from the end of one thing to the beginning of the next. I seek the next new adventure and shiny object.
We all have different endings in our life. They can be as large as finishing a course or school program, leaving a job, ending a relationship, leaving a country, or experiencing a death. Endings can be as small as reading a book, writing a blog post, or wrapping up a lovely meal with friends. And you can imagine the range of intermediate endings in between.
Endings can be your choice or involuntary. Both have different types of pain associated with it, though this post is primarily focused on voluntary endings. Endings are important as a milestone, a point-in-time reflection, and a brief pause to consider what matters. Some key questions to close the chapter on a period of life.
- What do you want to celebrate about your ending?
- What do you want to honor and carry with you into the future?
- What do you want to grieve and leave behind?
- How do you carry the ending for a group? How do you “teach em how to say goodbye”?
As I complete this part of my ongoing professional education, there’s many things I want to celebrate — the intimacy and connection between ten once-strangers who’ve spent 25 weeks together on zoom, the stabilizing ritual of a weekly meeting through the chaos of pandemic, and the power of a group as it gels over time. I want to honor the principles and cornerstones of co-active coaching and continue practicing them in my future client sessions. I’m also sad to lose this weekly touchpoint and grieve the connection, yet I want to leave behind how restricted my Tuesdays have been. And finally, I look at this ending as not really saying goodbye to individuals, but to the group. I know that it’s the beginning of connections that I’ll expand and explore through my life.
If we look back at history, George Washington had two major endings — first resigning his post as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and then resigning from his second presidential term, setting into motion the two-term limit on the US presidency. It was unprecedented for a leader to step out of that much power, and with my hazy Hamilton-fueled grasp of US history, I’ll conjecture that he wanted to leave a legacy for a republic rather than the British monarchy that may have felt more dictatorial. Honoring his new country was the best purpose for his ending.
I’ve shared two examples of examining endings. The reason for pondering these questions is that if you have an unresolved ending or matters that haven’t been completely grieved or considered, they often follow up to your next beginning and insidiously creep their way in. It happens often in both romantic relationships, and how you show up at work with your boss & co-workers.
Space In Between
And what are you going to do next? It’s the typical question that’s asked after an ending. It’s not uncommon for people in tech to leave a job on Friday and start their next job the following Monday. During farewell celebrations, the forward-looking crowd typically peppers the departing employee with questions about what’s next. It’s much more rare for people to take months off to figure out their next move or spend time with the family. I’m deeply familiar with and have been guilty of falling into this mould. Of not being willing to make an ending until the next beginning is clear in my mind.
Yet that fails to take into account the huge value of the space in between endings and beginnings. This is a whitespace of freedom, exploration and possibility. It’s also deeply uncomfortable because it’s unknown, uncertain, and unplanned. It’s the huge space of possibility before a commitment. In this space, you can ask questions such as:
- What am I longing for next?
- What do I want to explore?
- Can I focus on the present and live day-to-day without starting something?
How do you typically process your endings, beginnings, and the space in between? There isn’t a right way or a wrong way. Yet consider that you could try it differently next time to see if anything else opens up.
One of my wise CTI leaders, Andrea Sigetich left us with a poem by David Whyte entitled Finisterre, and I excerpt a portion of it to wish you safe pilgrimage through your endings, beginnings and the space in between.
to promise what you needed to promise all along,
and to abandon the shoes that brought you here
right at the water’s edge, not because you had given up
but because now, you would find a different way to tread,
and because, through it all, part of you would still walk on,
no matter how, over the waves.