When I was four, I started piano lessons, then took them on and off until about junior high. In grade school, I started baseball, and when I was stuck in the outfield along with receiving a minor hit from the ball, I quit. I applied and was accepted to a program for a degree in Russian language, but didn’t start one class. In my study, I probably have around 20 notebooks and journals that are started, but not full. I won’t try to count the number of stories and poems I’ve started but haven’t finished. It’s just depressing.
But for all the starts and stops, I have completed things. I completed a Bachelor’s degree. I completed trips to Russia, Ireland, and Canada. I completed two sessions (thus far) as a Hogwarts professor at my church. (Yeah, I’m proud of that. Professor Regina Owlwit at your service.) I published twice to my college’s literary journal. I have won a contest or two with my writing. Sure as the sun rises, I am going to finish this iced coffee sitting so comfortingly next to my computer.
Too often I become discouraged at the incomplete things lying around in my brain, those limp, soggy scraps that slowly rot under dim, greasy lighting. Those fragments of the Russian language that I rarely practice, those notes on the mandolin, those two chords on the guitar, and that volleyball overhand serve I never learned completely. Other things block the growth toward completion. Mental illness, physical illness, a job we need to take for the money, big life events such as getting married (I raise my hand. While I don’t at all regret getting married, it was a distraction from many things.) Distractions of all varieties surround us, whether positive or negative. Perhaps some things are not meant to reach completion. Perhaps some things are impossible to complete by nature, perhaps some things are continuous. And as a former perfectionist, I can say that completing some things just to complete them is not worth the anxiety and stress.
Why do we allow our worth to be defined by our list of accomplishments or lack of completions? Aren’t these “things” just lessons? We are eternal beings; what does it matter if you don’t complete that big project because you had a melt down trying to perfectly complete all the other projects in your planner? Granted, started things give our lives drive and passion. For those of us with depression, they can be windows to a more enriched life. But started things do not define us. Perhaps that started thing that ended was a lesson in itself; perhaps it was not for you.
Started things cannot heal you. They may draw you out of your cave, but they are not an end. If we rely on started things alone to complete and heal us, they will not be completed, but instead become those limp, soggy scraps in our brains. And we’re likely to crawl back into the cave with that dim, greasy lighting.
Started things are not a waste of time or entirely lost to time. We can start again. We can pick up where we left off, even though we may need to backtrack a little. And it’s okay if you try and try and try and it is never completed. Perhaps that started thing is meant only to be started. Do your best. Your Higher Power will do the rest.