I love the certain end. A period at the end of a sentence. Or an exclamation point. Something to mark the end of a story. Or of a chapter. A pause. A space to take a breath.
Actually, what I really love is a nice wrapped bow. Perfectly tied up in string. I like the clarity that endings can sometimes bring. Sometimes being the key word of the last sentence.
This week I found out the news that a podcast I loved decided to end. It’s weird when the people you follow are also following the same people as you. In some sense or another, we’ve all contended with endings. Or we will be.
My cousin’s graduation. The end of the school year. The end of a podcast. The end of a friendship.
There is sweetness in beginning anew with a fresh start on the horizon. Endings are harder. Especially when there is no clarity attached. I love a good finale if it leaves all the questions answered, but an end without clarity is haunting. I’m not making this up – there’s a Marina Keegan story called The Ingenue and it’s probably the one short story that has haunted me in my life.
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Endings are bittersweet. For some, it’s time to over romanticize what once was. To replay all the good and cast off the bad from view. But I err on the bitter side. Endings are only nice if they come with new beginnings. Otherwise they feel overwhelming. It isn’t easy to measure the space that something – a friendship, a job, a school – should take in your life if you’re overwhelmed by figuring out what it meant to you.
Endings force the kind of reflections that are easy to avoid in the day to day. When something (as small as a podcast, as big as a person) is removed from your life, you start to notice the space they filled. And if you’re honest with yourself, this can be an uncomfortable process.
It gets even more complicated when something ends unexpectedly. Your favorite TV show gets canceled and you never get to see how the characters will live their lives. You are only left with reruns of all of the old episodes, but it doesn’t quite satisfy. In the same way, we’re left with memories – of once was, of what will likely never be again.
The finality. It’s what makes life meaningful. And it’s what makes life painful. I’m not someone who gets super emotional very easily, but I did as I was listening to the last episode in the podcast. Endings have a weight attached to them that brings out all the feelings. The good, bad, and ugly come out to play and we have to contend with that.
It must be a measure of wellbeing as a human to learn to adequately go through and learn from the moments of our lives that lack clarity especially when they’re endings. Do we hide our emotions? Are we melodramatic? Do we stop and reflect? Or rush headfirst into the next thing? Being healthy – just a part of it is learning to do endings well.
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I’ve been learning that some things are not linear.
There is no straight-out-of-college-grad-school path. There isn’t a one-and-done healing for your heart. Our relationships are ebb and flow, not a continual upward trajectory. So often I want someone to carve a straight path for me. I don’t want to get it wrong. I don’t want to feel pain. Give me a straight path and I will follow.
Though many endings are only forwards (and some aren’t), the processing of that ending and its place in our lives doesn’t happen overnight. Like they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither can you complete your processing in a couple of hours. It helps if you have some clarity, but even if you don’t, this is not a quick process.
I’m not sure our society emphasizes or acknowledges what it means when something ends. We have graduations and goodbye parties. I’m just not sure I’ve been given something concrete to hold on to when something actually ends. We live in a world that just emphasizes new beginnings. The new job. The new house. The new school. The new car. The new baby. I guess the only real thing we have that acknowledges endings (the real END) is funerals. There’s a Seinfeld quote I love —
It’s a funny quote but it’s so true. We don’t really understand what it means when things end. And we haven’t found a good way to talk about it or process through it as a society. Anything that looks like losing is something we hide behind closed doors. In our aesthetically pleasing feeds, there is no room for the reality that life brings.
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I’m not saying all endings are good. But we can’t run away from those kinds because we don’t like them. And I’m not saying all endings are bad. We’re allowed to celebrate the endings that we are happy with. I just wish there was more room to let the endings in our lives be what they are, for a moment. Without moving on, or scrolling down.
Just sit still and acknowledge this is an ending.
With all of the emotions that come over you in waves. Or with shock because this end caught you by surprise. Processing it with friends. Or alone with silence as your friend.
You can hate endings like me and sit in the pause that it brings you, even when it brings up some painful memories. You can linger on the sweetness that has passed you by. You can dwell on the hurt or the ache or the peace that this ending brings with it. You can take a breath knowing there’s a space to mark the end of a chapter, the end of a story.