“Hi there, how may I help you?”
“Hi, I’d like one kick-in-the-butt, please.”
“Okay, how would you like that delivered? Hard, medium-hard, soft..?”
“I’ll take a medium-hard. I was looking pretty good at the beginning of the week, working pretty well, but then things just started slipping, you know?”
Gives me a knowing look.
“Don’t worry, we get a lot of those cases. Okay, a medium-hard it is. Anything else? No? Then right this way please. And how would you like to pay?”
If only it were just that easy. Pull out the plastic, buy your way back on track. I mean, it hasn’t always been like this. A couple of days ago I was knee-deep in motivation, I was practically buried in the stuff. And now, without warning, the beast is gone, and not for love nor money (nor loud, undignified tears) will it come bless me with its presence once more.
This is the new reality I have to contend with, for I have stepped into the Middle ground. What is this place, you ask? It is the doldrums, the flat lands, the place where creativity goes to die. It’s not its fault, really. I mean the Middle has a pretty tough gig, squeezed in between that show off, Beginning, and that drama queen, Ending.
Everyone has met a Beginning before. That magical moment it glides into the room and seizes you, time stands still. And when it bites inspiration seeps into your veins, can jump start even the most unmovable of hearts into sudden action. Those first glorious days unfold running on drive and determination, no need for any common fuel such as food or sleep. This is the power of a Beginning: it can move you, change you, wear you out, and use you. This is the power of starting, it is an energy closer to the divine.
On the other end of the spectrum you will find Beginning’s sister; some of you may know her, many of you will not. While a Beginning is a dime a dozen, only once in a blue moon does an Ending show up. And whereas the Beginning’s energy has a short fuse and sudden explosion, an Ending burns slow but hot. It never announces its presence, but a scent of it is always there, lingering, teasing. When an ending is near the atmosphere changes again. Dulled minds glisten with purpose, idle hands move at the speed of light. A race to the finish line, the Ending in sight.
But in between the manic upheaval of a beginning, and the righteous glory of an end, lies the nondescript mystery of a middle, the distance between point A and point B, a vast piece of territory unknown, and perhaps, unknowable.
This space, though by far the biggest of the three time periods, is dwarfed in notoriety because of its relative plainness. It does not contain the heart pounding action that either inspired you or drives you onward, it beats on in a much more even tempo. In fact, it can be slow. In truth, it can be downright boring. But wait, boredom is not a vocabulary you associate with a dream; how can you be bored while chasing your passion?
Welcome to the big trade secret. The one that no one talks about, and purposely overlook. It is the quick training montage compiled over motivating music in a sports movie; it is the hardship of perfecting a craft, glossed over in a few words found in biographies: she took ten years to learn, then look, a big break! No one wants to watch a team practice the same drills over and over again, or a writer re-working the same paragraph for days on end. Yet the big victories don’t come out of nowhere. There is no getting from a beginning to an end without walking through the middle, and no one gets out of the middle without doing the work. Work that’s repetitive, without passion, frustrating and never ending. Work that remains when inspiration leaves. And it is work that stays when drive and determination can’t sustain, and gets replaced with junk food and too much sleep.
You came here to sacrifice for your dream, to give life and limb to that vision calling your name. Sure, you will fight the hard battles, give everything you have when it comes down to the wire. But the real war is won on a different battleground, one that does not incite heroes or glories. It is a fight against monotony, showing up everyday nine to five and put down for your team. Even when there’s nothing there, when the wells are dry and the reserves are empty. Even when you don’t feel like it, or feel up to it. It is a job and you won’t always like it. But if you want to finish it, then you better buckle down and get to it.
To get through the Middle you have to walk one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, one day after another. The landscape on either side will look grey, and the horizon may be a thing that never existed. And still you will keep going. It may never get bright again, and excitement may be a thing of the past since leaving the Beginning behind. You may never even reach the End. After all, many dreams die, most don’t even get realized.
But keep walking through, commit yourself to the wasteland, day by day, night by night. Sooner or later there will be light. A faint breeze will float through the desert, a memory of better times. That breeze may blow into a hurricane, and without knowing it you’ll have tumbled your way into the end. How long will this take? You won’t know. Even when it feels like it’s been forever it may still take forever and a day. Keep pushing on. Each day you take on is one day closer, one day closer is one day less. The end is nigh my friends.
It always seems impossible until it’s done.
– Nelson Mandela