Brilliant Finishes

If you want to be inspired, stand at the finish line of a triathlon and watch the people come in, one by one, at their own paces, pride and accomplishment written all over their faces. As someone who has absolutely no interest in ever participating in one of these physical contests can attest, it even makes me say….hmmmm…could I? The endurance and determination these folks have is tremendous. They rise to the challenge and the reward is self-satisfaction. They do it because they want to push themselves and the result is a brilliant finish.

There are so many brilliant finishes in life: the neck and neck horse race where one horse barely beats out the other; a grand slam homerun in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the pennant; pulling an all-nighter for an examination and scoring a high A on it; closing that last page of a novel and being satisfied with the author’s surprise ending; or watching your kid pull out of the driveway after graduation, car fully loaded, as he makes his way to his first professional job in another state.

What makes us motivated to want to achieve a brilliant finish? What makes that tri-athlete trudge up those hills on the third leg of the race, despite the fact that he’s tired and his legs are sore? It’s the finish. It’s the end. It’s the reward.

My reward came yesterday as I was sitting at the kitchen table paying the bills after teaching my summer class. My husband walked in the door, arms extended, holding something and said, “Here.” (He also gave me a good smile that went along with the package). When he gave it to me I knew immediately what it was. I opened it, and what I found in my hands was the result of my brilliant finish: the diploma for my MFA degree that I completed in March. I was unable to attend the graduation ceremonies in San Diego for various reasons, so I simply asked for it to be mailed to me. I’m so proud of this thing, this piece of paper with my name on it featuring an embossed school logo. I worked hard for it—harder than I’ve ever worked for anything in my life—and all throughout, I continued my full-time roles as a wife, mother, educator, friend, chauffer, and general cheerleader for all friends, family, and students. I love this diploma so much, I don’t think I ever want to be parted from it.

I may not have been physically going after this achievement, using my muscles to reach my goal, but it did take endurance and commitment and dedication and incredible determination to get that MFA. It wasn’t easy, but it was an adventure. I’m so pleased I met the challenge. It made me realize that when you want something badly enough, it’s true that you can make it happen.

Those tri-athletes I speak of wanted to cross that finish line. They saw the end in sight. They took it in, hearing the cheers from the crowd, high-fiving outstretched arms as they came down the chute, smiling at the inspirational faces all around them.

I had that, too. When my daughter saw my diploma when she came home, she jumped for joy for me. My son gave me a big kiss and threw his arms around me. And my husband, well, let’s just say, he got a little teary because we were all in this thing together.

Likewise, when my husband crossed the finish line at last Sunday’s Tri, I got choked up as well. I clapped and cheered and took photographs. My son leaned over and said, “Mommy, why don’t you do the triathlon next year?” (The innocence and ignorance of kids is adorable at times). “Mommy will never do it,” I said. “Why?” he asked. “Because Mommy has no desire to do it. Mommy’s role with regard to triathlons is to be the cheerleader.” He looked at me and smiled. One person’s brilliant finish is another person’s chance to admire it and appreciate it from afar (or a-near).

In truth, any brilliant finish requires the support of those around you. Because—and let’s be real—it wouldn’t be that brilliant without it.

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