There’s been a trend on social media for a while that I’ve actually enjoyed.
“How it started vs. How it’s going.”
It’s fun to see a picture of high school sweethearts with ridiculous looking haircuts and cringe-worthy clothing turn into a portrait of a middle-aged married couple and their three children.
It’s gratifying to watch “How it started” bloopers of premier athletes followed by their decades-later “How it’s going” highlights.
It’s entertaining to see a mixing bowl full of mushy ingredients, only to tap right and find a full pan of banana muffins.
Most of the “How it started vs. How it’s going” posts I’ve seen have been somewhat the equivalent of a good “before and after” photo. Only it’s opened the playing field to objects, people and experiences well beyond home improvement.
We all love a good transformation. Growth, in nearly anything, is gratifying.
My husband and I recently celebrated our 12-year anniversary. We’re not newlyweds. But we’re also not marriage vets.
We’re in that space somewhere in between.
Whenever I see photos or footage of “How it started vs. How it’s going,” I typically find myself content with whatever transformation happened on the screen. Maybe that’s because there weren’t any photos posted of the space somewhere in between.
And that’s where I usually struggle.
Nobody has popularized a hashtag #slowworkinprogress or #stilltryingbutstillterrible. Perhaps that’s because it’s sexy to start and it’s satisfying to finish. But it’s painful to struggle. It’s not popular, nor does it feel great, to slog through another attempt closer to mastery while remaining very far off from it.
It’s not easy to be incomplete. It can be tough to be an amateur.
After the “before” but before the “after” seems to be the hardest place to live.
But I wonder if it’s also the space we actually want to find ourselves in.
John Wooden once quoted another, “When I’m through learning, I am through.”
Learning, growing, transforming, evolving. While they’re not easy, they also mean we’re still in it. And in life, we always want to be in the game.
When I transitioned from childless to having children, something in me wanted to assume a position of ownership. A place of finality. For whatever reason, I sort of thought it meant I grew out of self-growth and was now just a guide to grow others. That I no longer needed to focus my efforts on being made new, but would simply help along the new life I had made.
It was as if someone had put up a picture of me before kids and you could tap through to see my “after” following my boys’ birth.
“Before” meant there was more work to be done.
“After” insinuated I had somehow arrived.
But I was wrong.
Little did I know, my greatest growth would come after the kids. They would be the ones to show me how far off I was from being finished. It took growing kids to show me how much growing of my own there is still left to do.
That hasn’t been easy.
But here’s what I know. I hope in this life to never think I’ve reached the point of an “after” picture.
This space between is where the growing happens. And that’s where I ultimately and always want to be.
I hope to find you there, too.
May we always be a work in progress.
Theresa Meacham’s column appears Wednesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.