There’s a reason humans pretty universally hate TV show finales. (There’s only a handful that I, personally, even acknowledge as canon. I’m looking at you, How I Met Your Mother.)
I think that, as humans, we have a hard time finishing strong.
Whatever it is that’s ending—a job you slack off at those final two weeks, living in a city you’re about to move away from, even a year that did you dirty—it’s hard to walk away with that perfect balance of contentment and optimism, completion, and forward momentum.
In actuality, most situations seem to go one of two ways. You either grow to hate the situation so much you can’t wait for it to end, so you decided to burn the place down on your way out, or you love it so much you end up kicking, screaming, and holding on as desperately as Rose Dawson clung to that door. (Sorry, Leo.)
I struggle to find the balance, often swinging wildly from one extreme to the other. I’ve come to find that sometimes, when an ending or transition looms, I get frantic and wrestle with a sense of scarcity that I didn’t enjoy enough or experience enough. (I was always so fun on the last three days of vacation growing up.) I go all “weepily nostalgic” and wonder how this season could ever be over.
It’s underscored by this crippling fear that I’m about to make the wrong choice and a flawed assumption that if I pine for the past in the next season, it will somehow make up for the fact that I’ve left something behind. I’m paralyzed by the terror that everything will be different and nothing will be the same again—a reality that, while very commonplace in actual life, seems devastating when change is on the horizon.
On the other hand, sometimes I decide to hide myself away or make the situation as unappealing for myself as possible. I disdain everything about the town I live in, in favor of whatever perfect, glowing Emerald City awaits me, or make blanket statements that “Everything in 2019 sucked!” when really there were some lovely moments, alongside the yikeses. That way, after I’ve moved on, I don’t have to question whether I made the right choice because I’ve so thoroughly convinced myself that what I left was inferior.
This is no good either. Why ruin what could be a perfectly lovely memory and a source of genuine gratitude because you’re afraid of risking deeper vulnerability by continuing to allow yourself to love a place, person, or season?
I get it. It is hard work to continue to put yourself out there when something inside you says, “Pssh, we’ll be gone in [insert rapidly expiring time period here]. Why invest or, Heaven forbid, feel things about this place or community I’m about to leave? I’d rather just move on already. Let’s not make this more complicated or emotional than it already is.” I know that voice and that logic. It can be powerful and often convincing. But please resist it with me. Keep showing up. Even when it isn’t easy.
Dear one, this is what makes us human. The messy. The middle. The in-between.
I’ve heard it called “liminal space”—between no longer and not yet. The part when you feel like your arms are being pulled in two directions (think the adorable kid from Marriage Story holding onto Adam AND Scarlett in that one moment that made you tear up, don’t deny it). The part when you wonder if you’re being stretched beyond the bounds of your soul.
The mystery here is that we’re more resilient than we realize. We possess the capacity for such deep feeling in many directions at once—excitement for the next and sorrow for what is over; gratitude for the good of the recent and terror for the unknown of what’s to come.
You might feel like your body can’t contain all the emotions, questions, and confusions of figuring out how to end well. But life is a series of startings and endings and all that lies in between.
Some large and some small. Some transitions happen before you even realize, and some feel like you’re going to literally split in two by the time they’re done. Some beginnings replace something that makes you say, “Thank God that’s over.” And some endings make you look tearfully in the rearview mirror as you drive away, saying, “Thank God it happened.”
You’ll handle some more graciously than others. And that’s okay. You’re learning.
And you’re moving forward.
But may I ask of you? As you end this one—whatever it is you’re beginning to mourn or dance in the wake of (sometimes both)—do it with a bang. Be strong. Be brave. Connect with people and don’t be a recluse. Work well and leave the place better than you found it. (Unless it’s really, really toxic. In which case, don’t stress yourself to fix everything. You probably won’t. And that’s okay. You did your best.) Make bucket lists for cities and actually check everything off.
Leave it all on the field, my friend.
Because as annoying or frustrating or tear-filled as this season was, there are things about it that you will miss (or at least appreciate). So please make a deposit that your future self will cash by making this ending as firework-filled as is possibly within your power.
Make it a good, good ending—think Breakfast Club fist pump, Sixth Sense twist, or New Girl True American flashforward.
And then step confidently into the opening scene of the Next Thing, arms flung wide, ready for what’s to come.