This is fairly verbatim to a video I made today. Maybe with a few added points and fewer “and….” ‘s. But I’m pretty much going to just copy and paste my video script.
A few years ago one of my colleagues shared about a poster in her classroom. We are traveling music teachers, going between schools, and we all share spaces with other teachers.
The poster said, “It’s not the finish line that matters. It’s having the courage to start.”
And my coworkers had a field day with this. Because HOW could the finish line not matter?
Does this mean results don’t matter in the end?
Does this mean you can do a crappy and half-assed job and as long as you do something in the meantime, you’re good?
Does this mean if you start something and then you quit immediately, the fact that you started is the only thing matters?
I think this third idea is what grabbed the attention of my coworkers. Because we are band teachers. Kids get very excited about band. They get their instruments, their books, learn about music, and some kids find out that music is hard. And they quit.
For those kids, my teammates were probably thinking, that’s the finish line. And the poster becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way – “It’s not the finish line that matters.” The fact that the kids started band, and quit band, and didn’t see it through to the end – that’s a dissonance that makes them want to disagree with the poster. Because it seems ludicrous.
But I’ve been thinking about that poster lately, because it happens to also have been hanging in one of my classrooms for the past two years. And I’ve been in this weird phase of life – on disability leave, not sure when would be the most appropriate time to return to work, thinking about starting this YouTube channel and wondering how much time and money I really want to invest in this.
I was thinking about what I should discuss this week because I wasn’t sure if I had any perfectly-formed thoughts about ANYTHING and would that even be worth posting about? I’ve been watching so many videos of these great YouTubers and their amazingly formed opinions and thoughts, and wondering what would be the best way to deliver MY expertise and feeling like a fraud because I’m not even currently working in my field.
I thought about a song I wrote once. A song about songwriting, that might perhaps be one of the most poignant and relevant songs in my life. It’s a song about taking an idea that came from your brain, developing it, holding on to it, and being proud that that came from your brain even years later. Even if it turns out later to be crappy or weird.
I feel like this song will always be relevant to me. The last lines?
Because what if I couldn’t sing at all? Who cares if the world isn’t ready for me to sing at all?
Today is the day I realized that I agree with the poster. “It’s not the finish line that matters. It’s having the courage to start.”
Please hear me out about this. If you are like me, maybe you are someone who seeks to work hard and do great things and make the world better. Maybe you want every piece of work that comes out of your brain to come out as a shiny golden masterpiece. Maybe there are a lot of circumstances stacked up against you and you’re just trying to be better, or there’s something you want to change in your life and it’s very different from anything you’ve ever seen anyone else do.
Maybe you are considering a big life change or even a small one. Maybe what you are thinking about could put a strain on your relationships or a strain on your ego.
My point is, starting something is friggen scary. Doing anything new can be terrifying. Especially when you are changing something about yourself or making yourself vulnerable.
Going to a yoga class for the first time? Scary – because most people in a yoga class have already experienced that. Starting a fitness regime, even in the comfort of your own home, is scary. Because what if you can’t do it? What if it hurts? What if you abandon it a week in?
Returning to something you’ve done before is also scary. Especially if it’s something you have been good at. You risk bruising your ego, and that sounds like the smallest thing in the big picture, but it’s a big deal and a big risk.
I’m freaking out about returning to teaching. Everything I’ve built in the beginning part of this year, everything I’ve trained my students to do, I just don’t know if they will still have that. I may have to start from scratch.
This is a big one – starting to be the change.
Having the courage to start to be the change.
I’m addressing this in light of the student walkout on Wednesday. I know my district was supportive of students who chose to walk out for their safety in schools. I know other districts may not have been so supportive. Students who chose to participate and speak out against gun violence in schools – They took a huge risk. That is scary. It takes courage.
It takes courage to model the change you want to see if it’s different from the norm. It would be much easier to just keep doing everything the same. But guess what? You have to take risks to grow. We, as a society, have to take risks to grow. There has been a lot of failure but that doesn’t mean it’s all over.
Because the truth is, there is no finish line. There’s no finish line until the sun engulfs the earth. Even after the last human dies, there is still a planet here. Even after we die, there will still be more humans whose lives are valuable and worth fighting for.
Even after my ego gets bruised from a day full of teaching mistakes, or from someone telling me my trumpet playing is full of clams or that I really need to check my privilege, there is my opportunity to START FIXING THINGS.
Have you recently been battling to find the courage to start something new or important? Have you recently taken a risk to change something in your life? Was it scary? I would love to hear about it. Please let me know in the comments!