We spend hours building a sandcastle with our backs to the sun, toiling away in the summer heat. We stack the towers higher, reinforce the walls, build moats to protect their walls, and search for shells to adorn them all to have our efforts washed away by the sea at day's end.
Work, work, work, ...and then it's gone.
So what's the point? What a colossal waste of time and energy to have spent a beautiful, sun-filled day on a work of art that was doomed from the start. Have you ever stopped to ask a child why they're building a sandcastle? Probably not but if you have, I expect they didn't have much of an answer for you beyond "for fun," or "just because." If you've ever watched a child build a sandcastle, or built one yourself, maybe you've noticed that there doesn't seem or need to be a reason. The work is the reason. The process is the reason.
Somewhere between sandcastle-building age and adulthood, many of us lose the ability to work this way. School and our jobs tells us that there is always a purpose and that any path we take should be leading us to that purpose. We are taught to visualize a goal and to attain it. We are a Point A-meet-Point B-and-forget-that-junk-in-between society. Of course, learning to set and attain goals is a good thing in many ways. Setting goals helps us get to know ourselves and gives us tools to work through the often hard and unenjoyable moments of life, but it also limits our experiences. The "end goal" mentality is fairly capitalist in nature. Life is comprised of hard work that serves to bring us success which is measured, of course, by money.
But what about the hard work that doesn't bring us money. Does that mean it was unsuccessful work? Does that mean it was a waste?
A beloved neighborhood brewery in my hometown, Blank Slate Brewing Company, abruptly closed its doors this past Monday with little explanation. "Closed. Thanks for the memories," the website said. And that was it. The craft beer community was, and is, devastated and confused. Many were so confused by this because the beer was great, the taproom was busy, and the team was well-loved — but clearly that wasn't enough. For whatever reason (money, family, new opportunities, we don't know yet), it was time for the owner to say goodbye. Meanwhile people are rushing to stores to buy the beer before it's gone, bars are planning parties to honor the brewery, and bloggers are starting community threads to share customer's favorite stories.
But that brewery and its owner failed, right? The business is closing and it certainly didn't make him rich, so it couldn't have made him successful, right? Wrong.
Just because something doesn't last forever doesn't make it a failure. Sometimes the work (and the beer!) is the reason. Sometimes the process is the reason. And when the work and process has to end, it can just end. Sometimes you have to admit that you did your best and you did what you could and that's all there was. Except that's not all there is because there's still the memories: memories of work, of building, of toiling, of learning and, most importantly, of enjoying.
There will be times that you're going to be successful like the skyscraper that stands tall and demands attention and has to hit with explosives and heavy machinery to be brought down. There will also be times you're going to be successful like a sandcastle. The hardest part, I think, is remembering which one you are when the walls start to crumble. Remember that this work, this process, was for a sandcastle this time, not a skyscraper. Take a photo and then let go.
"Like a sandcastle, all is temporary. Build it, tend it, enjoy it. And when the time comes let it go."