Most things end. I know, super uplifting. Hang tight, it’ll get better. But we have to start with this fact – at some point, most things will end.
Those endings don’t have to be negative, they can happen because new doors open up or we realize we deserve better or simply because people grow apart and soon enough an ending has formed without us even knowing. What I’m meaning to say is that endings are a very common, natural, inevitable part of life.
But they’re hard for me, so I’ve taken to avoiding them where I can. I have read the first few chapters of so many books. So. Many. Books. But I rarely finish them because if I don’t, then the story lives on, right? I have watched so many TV shows up until the final season, avoiding the ending like upon my watching of a series finale every TV and streaming device in the world will explode and that story will never be accessible ever again. I don’t watch a lot of movies, partially due to my short attention span but also because I know I’ll be forced to endure the ending (and let’s be real, even if there’s a sequel, it’s never quite as good).
I know those are silly habits that I could change if I really wanted, and you didn’t start reading this to hear about my relationship with Netflix. What’s harder for me, and harder for me to admit, is that I am not good at letting go of people who have meant something in my life, romantic or otherwise. I would like to think I am friendly and cordial, but I don’t truly let people in, let people get close to me, all that often because – most things end. And endings, with their subsequent, unavoidable process of having to let go, are hard.
The thing is, with people, I know I can’t hit “No” when Netflix asks if I’m still watching. I know I can’t put the book down and ignore the fact that our relationship is going down in flames. I can’t just rely on that familiar shocked expression when I say, “No, I haven’t seen that movie,” because I have seen this one – the tale of people coming in and out of my life and leaving a human-sized hole for me to fill with nostalgia and emotional projections – so many times.
I’ve known this about myself for a long time. But what I’ve recently realized is that it’s not about the other person – it’s not about the first love who cheated on me, or the friend I thought I could count on, or the deadbeat guy I spent too much time convincing to love me. It’s not about anyone in any of my latest dating stories my hairdresser asks for routinely.
It’s about the person I was during the time I spent with them. It’s about the particular distortion in their mirror that allowed me to see myself a little differently. It’s about the frustration of letting someone have that kind of an impact, and then having to let them go. And it’s about accepting that I will never be the exact same person I was – or imagined myself to be – once they’re gone.
Truthfully, the hardest relationships for me to let go of are those that didn’t allow me to be the best version of myself. I continually return to those memories – I think because I still have unresolved feelings as to why I didn’t feel good enough or what I could’ve possibly done differently or why I couldn’t just walk away from something that was bad for me. I am perpetually frustrated that I can’t go back and “fix” whatever problems hindsight has so graciously allowed me to now see clearly.
Maybe this is just narcissism trying to outweigh nostalgia under the magnifying glass that is the holidays. But it’s helpful, on some level, to realize that I can’t keep holding on to my perception of someone in my past just to return to who I was at the time. What I’m realizing now is that while most things may end, the person I was during that time lives on. In my continuous struggle to let go, I’m starting to understand something – that every version of me that I’ve been is still with me. And every version of you that you’ve been is still with you. We don’t change that drastically from experience to experience or relationship to relationship or friendship to friendship, despite maybe feeling that way.
We carry the pieces of us that remain once the ending has happened, and we try to make sense of them. And all we can do is take those pieces and continue to work out the puzzle. And as people walk in and out of our lives, they are just giving us more and more to work with. But it’s our choice how the picture turns out, even if it is constantly changing.