30 April 2013

The Euphoria of Completion

SQUEEEEEAK! That was the sound of me squeaking in just under the wire with my term paper. Okay, technically I could have had until the end of June to finish this course, but I wanted to get it done before the summer semester starts tomorrow. So I buckled down, and got 'er done, just. And oh, does it ever feel good!

Have you ever felt that, the euphoria of completion? Post-term-paper euphoria. Post-exam euphoria. Graduation. Reaching the mountain summit. Crossing the finish line on a marathon. Okay, okay, I've never experienced the last one, being an inveterate couch potato. And the one before that only under duress - when I was a kid, they made me go hiking in the Swiss Alps in our holidays, when I would have much preferred to stay home with a book. I was so put-upon, I was. Once I got a bit older, I did go hiking voluntarily, especially when there were friends involved. But really, I usually preferred the easier hikes, not the ones that were really strenuous. The mountain tops were still quite nice there, but I'm pretty sure that the thrill of the summit is directly proportionate to the strain of the climb.

That's why it feels so great to have these term papers out of the way. You see, I do get in quite a flap about writing those things. My stress level rises to the roof, my blood pressure tries to follow suit, and my acid reflux... well, you get the picture. So why do I do these things in the first place? Why did I get myself into this degree program? It would have been so much easier to rest on my laurels (or my BA certificate, as it were. Except it wouldn't be very comfortable, and probably get crumpled, which would be a pity.). Well, why do you climb the mountain, or run that marathon? Because you know you have to, that's why.

And so you lace up your hiking boots, boot up your computer, lay out your paintbrushes and strap that four-foot canvas to the easel. You go to the library and check out foot-high stacks of books on Goethe and Kate Chopin, get the 1:50,000 topographic map that shows all the little hiking trails, do your training runs along the back roads of your town. And then you just get down to it. You run the race, climb the climb, paint the picture, write the paper. On and on, and on some more.

And then it's done. You crest the summit. And put your signature in the bottom right corner. And cross the finish line, type the last sentence, format the references, finally click "submit".

And you abandon yourself to the head rush of completion. Yesss!! You take a few deep breaths of the mountain air, and just take in the view. Look, there's the path we came up on! Oh, see, that's the spot where the cat wiped her tail through the ultramarine blue. Hey, that reference came from the article on Goethe and Chopin, that was fascinating. And aren't you glad somebody had a bottle of water for you at the half-way point? Now that you're done, you can look back, and turn the experience into story. You can start telling others how you got here. But first, you have to get here, you have to finish.  And when you do, it's all been worth it.

Life, the Universe, and The Euphoria of Completion. There is no other feeling like it.

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