the finish line

The finish line at the end of a career is no different from the finish line at the end of a match. The objective is to get within reach of that finish line, because then it gives off a magnetic force. When you’re close, you can feel that force pulling you, and you can use that force to get across. But just before you come within range, or just after, you feel another force, equally strong, pushing you away. It’s inexplicable, mystical, these twin forces, these contradictory energies, but they both exist. I know, because I’ve spent so much of my life seeking the one, fighting the other, and sometimes I’ve been stuck, suspended, bounced like a tennis ball between the two.

Andre Agassi

So. Real. I don’t think it’s ‘inexplicable’ or ‘mystical’ though. Isn’t it obvious what pushes you away from the finish line? Once you cross it (unless you’re in a position to rest on your laurels for the rest of your life, which most of us are not), you have to find a new goal, start over. Starting is always hard, but it’s even more so when you’ve been focused on a major goal for a really long time. And when you’d like to something different than what’s seen as the natural next step, the decision can be fraught.

I’m not done my dissertation draft, but I’ve officially reached the point at which I would have a 12- to 15-page paper the night before it was due (all-nighters ftw). Which means for the first time in this process I can see the finish line. Realistically, a few more weeks and I will be sticking a spork in it. I’m… relieved. Maybe the thrill will come later, after I’ve finished formatting it (so not looking forward to that), or after the feedback process, or after the defense, or after the official “yes, you are graduating” notice, or… well, let’s just say, I’m not one for counting my chickens before they’re hatched. But a weight lifted this week.