The Exhilaration of Beginnings

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“Since when,” he asked,
“Are the first line and last line of any poem
Where the poem begins and ends?” 

Seamus Heaney

We recently had a farewell dinner with some friends who were moving their family from Indiana to Pennsylvania. They brought their two young children along and we shared a lovely dinner at a restaurant midway between our two homes. Upon seeing both of them, I was struck by their joyfulness. They were electric with possibility.

From the first greeting through our final farewells, the conversation flowed effortlessly but was fast-paced. We hadn’t seen them in a while, so there was much catching up to do, but I noticed something different. They could hardly contain their enthusiasm – for us, for our time together, for their children, for their life, for what was next. Both were serene in a high-energy kind-of-way; like springs coiled to be released. I envisioned them bounding to their car and racing down the highway to their new life ahead.

Writing this, I smile as I consider them both that evening. Innocent. Sincere. Engaged. Vulnerable. Powerful. Excited. They glowed with the exhilaration of their new beginning. Even the difficulties of moving and the uncertainties of what might lie ahead were lost to their hopefulness. These were worthy challenges. They had surrendered to the possible.

What is it about beginnings that thrills us so? In them we get a “do-over.” The chance to try again. In the new we see the opportunity to refresh the old, change the patterns, and discover something…anything. Even if that something is difficult, it is an unknown difficulty and we see those challenges as welcome necessities. We tolerate them as new friends we’ve met on a path toward what might be.

In beginnings, we find adventure. Once again, discovery is ours. All of us are hungry for it. Yes, we get comfortable in our lives of familiarity. Certainly we are reassured by the normal. But that new path moves us in ways we rarely know amid the familiar. Even a bit of fear feeds the elation of a fresh start. Thinking of our friends heading into their new unknown, even the doubts were attached to a peaceful surrender. “What might be” was a welcome uncertainty.

Of course, new beginnings soon become the familiar. The euphoria of a trailhead passes into the comfort of a known path and is no longer the thrilling unknown. And that’s ok.

We’re not made to exist at beginnings. They are simply another part of our cycle of existence. The highs, the lows, the middles. We must move among them all or we stop living. Our human condition is to feel called to each in its own way and we move forward by experiencing them all. We grow by living amid the broad spectrum of elations and frustrations. Still, there is nothing like the thrill of that beginning.

Perhaps we can add a few more beginnings to the routine of our lives. It doesn’t always make sense to pack-up and move-on when we feel the need for change. Maybe there are new trailheads in your own backyard.

Consider the difference between the tourist and the local. The local knows the places worth visiting, the restaurants worth experiencing, and the areas that need to be avoided. The tourist is looking for the best experiences; she is open to the new and willing to give it a try. When was the last time you played the tourist in your own life? Even though I’ve lived most of my life in Indianapolis, I still find new places when I go looking. Often, to my delightful surprise.

Considering our friends now off on their new adventure, my heart is warmed by the memory of their exhilaration. I see both of them smiling broadly, serenely, as they consider all that might lay ahead. I wonder about the new jobs, new friends, new schools, new restaurants, and collection of new experiences waiting for them and, for a moment, I feel their joy.

Outside my window, the day awaits. It is early. The world has only just begun to move and I realize that the entire day lays before me, ripe with possibility. With my own broad smile, I step into this day grateful for the new beginning it offers.


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