The Invisible Finish Line

Your opponent started yesterday. -Pastor S. Norful

When I was younger, I wanted to be so many different things. I told my parents I wanted to be an actress like Brandy on Moesha, so they put me in an acting class at the local community center. I can still remember twirling around in a white GoodWill dress, magic wand in hand, as I played the fairy godmother in an adaptation of Cinderella. After seeing the video my mother recorded of my performance, I took an exit from my acting career stage left. Then I told my parents I wanted to be a fashion designer. They got me a sheet of the ugliest purple cloth, a little sewing machine and an old mannequin from Walmart. I quit before I could even make a shirt comparable to Denise Huxtable’s Gordon Garbage blouse. I went from detective to massage therapist, and still kept going until I narrowed it down to being a writer. But it took a lot of  trials, and even more errors.

It wasn’t until I really began to write that I realized something about myself that’s been the case all my life: I don’t finish things. I start things and as soon as it begins to get a little difficult, or requires more work than I expected, I move on to something else. Sometimes I lack focus and want to do things just because they are temporarily appealing, usually because someone else is having success doing it. The problem with this is that because I keep jumping from one thing to the next without actually mastering it, it never gets it finished. In the end, all I’m left with is a trail of too many “almost-done” projects. And I know I’m not the only one that does this.

Some people tend to move from project to project, even in the same subject area but still different works. I did this myself for almost two years – starting a script and leaving it unfinished to start another script or another book outline or anything but what I was working on. I call people like me “drifters.” Its so easy to rationalize our actions in our minds by saying things like “I just got an even better idea, I’ll come back to this later.” or “Doing this will help me later on when I come back to that.” But in actuality, we’re forming a habit of “almost-quitting.” Instead completely doing away with the piece of work, we shelve it for who knows how long. This is even worse than actually quitting because we delude ourselves with the thought that we’ll come back to it instead of fully committing to getting it done or being done with it all together. Drifters may never see the finish line because we are too busy going from one starting marker to the next. It’s a hard life out here for us drifters.

Then there’s the people that see someone doing something great and want to do the same thing, which isn’t always bad. The problem comes when they don’t realize this isn’t our area of expertise skill-wise. I did this myself during my stint as a fashion designer. I saw someone on America’s Next Top Model and I said to myself, “That looks cool! She’s doing it! I want to do it too!” Problem was, I couldn’t use a sewing machine to save my life (and it’d be pretty hard to hand-sew every piece of clothing I designed). I call people like me, “pseudos”. Pseudos are those people who, like drifters, move from project to project. The difference between the two is that they do things because it looks interesting, not because they actually have an ability to actually do it. See I wasn’t meant to be a fashion designer, I’m a writer. And I’m glad I figured this out early on, because if not, I would have still been stitching the beading on my first shirt ever, instead of finishing my first motion picture script.

Pseudo’s continue on a path of doing things that seem appealing on the outside. But once we realize these things are a lot harder than we anticipated, or requires more discipline than we expected, we quit and move on to the next appealing thing. We never finish what we start either. Someone once said to me that it would look pretty crazy to see a dog standing on twos instead all fours, trying to be a human. Because they’re a dog. The same goes for people. It looks crazy when you see someone trying to do something they weren’t made to do. A painter shouldn’t try to be an engineer and an engineer shouldn’t try to be painter. Because at some point they will both realize that this isn’t what they are skilled to do. And all the time they spent trying to paint a Picasso or build a rocket, they could have spent doing what they are really purposed to do.

These days, its easy to get swept into the allure of something that seems exciting. But the time you spend chasing a want that has nothing to do with your dream, your passion, and your purpose is essentially time wasted. Sure you will learn something about yourself – much like I did – but too many of these detours do nothing but steer you away from your finish line. So find what it is you love to do, what you can’t see yourself not ever doing again. Find that passion, and work towards mastering it. You may start off walking as you notice that you like what you’re doing and you see that you’re actually pretty good at it. But you’ll eventually start to jog at a comfortable pace as you master your skills to perfection, and thats when you can do a full out sprint. And as your legs begin to move faster and faster, you”ll see your finish line in bold red tape and your trophy shining bright at the end.

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