After eight hilarious years of slaps, Bro-Code entries, cockamice, Robin Sparkles discoveries and poor choices in red footwear, How I Met Your Mother creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas managed a perfectly shocking and polarizing 9th season and two-part finale of this legendary show. But whether or not you liked the ending of Ted Mosby’s love story, (Lord knows I still lose sleep over it,) there are moments and lessons from the show that will always be applicable to romantics for generations to come.
1. The universe has a plan
“Right Place, Right Time” Season 4, episode 22
By its fourth season, How I Met Your Mother seemed to be the most roundabout story of two people meeting. But this episode explains why Ted felt the need to tell his children stories from the years before meeting The Mother. Ted describes a walk he took to a bagel shop, while constantly getting distracted by people and things along the way. Being Ted Mosby, he goes into great detail about the importance of each distraction. He explains to the kids that if he hadn’t gotten to a certain intersection at the right split second, they may have never been born.
Because as we all know, the person he ran into at the bus stop was none other than…Stella? Well, that seems disappointing…until you realize that Stella’s boyfriend is leads Ted to his job as a professor, where he makes the right connections that lead him to The Mother. Ted reminisces that he’s so grateful for every distraction that day and all who made his amazing future possible.
But one person in particular who always lead him towards the mother was Robin. Robin was a factor in the breakup of Ted and Victoria, Robin and Ted’s breakup caused the infamous butterfly tramp stamp that led Ted to Stella the first time, Robin showing up to Ted’s wedding caused Ted to feel he had to invite Stella’s ex, which caused Stella to leave him at the altar, and later we’d find out that Ted meets the love of his life at Robin’s wedding.
But in this episode, her role in helping him meet The Mother was by being the one to suggest he get the bagel. And the rest is history. But life – whether you live in Ted Mosby’s fictional New York City or the real world – is truly like that. And we will never know until all is said and done who we wish we could go back and thank for the life lessons, advice and distractions that lead us to our metaphorical girls with yellow umbrellas. We just have to go with the flow.
2. When one door closes…well, you know the rest…
“No Pressure” Season 7, episode 17
The dream of being with Robin had always been in the back…and many times the front of Ted’s mind. And with both of them single and living together, it was no surprise that a moment of standing on the same rooftop where they shared their first kiss was enough to get Ted to tell her how he truly felt all this time. But when Ted discovers that Robin may still have feelings for Barney, he makes the disappointing realization that Robin is never going to change her mind and be with him. So he calls off the pact they had made to get married if they’re still single by their 40’s.
But Ted sees this as a burden being lifted off his shoulders. With there being no promise of him being with Robin in the future, he re-opens his heart to the idea that any woman he meets could potentially be the one. It’s the classic “When one door closes, another one opens” lesson, but told with the twist that sometimes we have to force doors closed so we can narrow down our paths. By the way, did anyone else notice in this episode that Robin leaves the door partway open when she leaves for Moscow? And also in the re-enactments of the scene? Looks like someone has a good ol’ Netflix homework assignment for the evening.
3. Everything could be 45 days away
“The Time Travelers” Season 8 episode 20
By the end of season 8, with Marshall and Lily busy with baby Marvin, and Barney and Robin being caught up in details for their wedding, Ted seemed to be the latest bloomer of the group in terms of his love life. And the reality of the situation hits Ted smack dab in the face as he sits alone at the bar with tickets to a Robots vs. Wrestlers event that he couldn’t get anyone to join him for.
It’s then in the story that future Ted tells his kids that although he should have lost hope in finding his soul mate at that point, there was really nothing to worry about. Because 45 days later, he’d meet The Mother and his life would change forever. If he had decided to give up on love and destiny 1-44 days after the night of the Robots vs. Wrestlers event, his family wouldn’t be a reality. And the lesson applies to everyone. Failure and sadness are inevitable, but if we don’t power through them, we may never see how inevitable reward can be. And while we wish we could go back in time and spend more time with certain people (and definitely less time with others,) it’s our patience when faced with doubt that gets us through the countdown.
4. This is “La Vie En Rose”
“How Your Mother Met Me” Season 9, episode 16
In this well-paced and heartfelt episode, we follow the future Mrs. Ted Mosby on her own parallel life adventure from the first day that Ted saw Robin across a crowded bar up until the first time that Ted ever hears his future wife’s voice at the inn the night before Robin and Barney’s wedding. Even though the future Mrs. Mosby had been featured in several present-day interactions with Ted’s friends, and flash-forwards to the amazing marriage of theirs that would follow, many questions had still been left unanswered until this episode. In “How Your Mother Met Me,” we see the tragic turn her life takes on the night that the pilot episode takes place, the events that led to her attending the Econ 305 course that Ted accidentally taught, her reaction to his breakup with her old roommate Cindy, and most importantly, all of the moments when she missed interacting with Ted by milliseconds.
The times where she almost runs into Ted are the periods when neither of them are anywhere near being ready to meet each other. She attends the same club as him on St. Patrick’s Day, but as Ted says himself, she wouldn’t have liked him very much if she had met him that night. And her other almost-run-ins include the time Ted attempted to pick up women while wearing a bright green dress and moments where The Mother was emotionally closed off.
The viewers knew he had to do a lot of self-discovery to earn the chance to meet The Mother, and finally got to see what she had to learn about herself to earn meeting the new and improved Ted. The song “La Vie En Rose,” which Ted hears her sing at the end of this episode, has been translated in meaning to “The world in rose-colored glasses. It’s meant to represent how colorful life truly is. And it’s the colorful life of these characters that bring them together at the right train platform, at the right time.
5. Sometimes you just find things
“Last Forever” Season 9 episode 23-24
Earlier in the 9th season, Klaus, Victoria’s ex-fiancé, enlightens us to the fact that Lebenslanger-Schicksalsschatz, a fictional German phrase meaning a “lifelong treasure of destiny,” is felt instantaneously. He states if you have to wonder about it, you haven’t yet felt it. This causes Ted to realize that his soul mate was still out there, and it wasn’t Robin. Because like Ted has said before, with Robin things were never easy. And it should be easy sometimes. When you’ve met the right person, they’ll laugh at your shellfish puns and sing along when your English muffin belts a show tune, and you shouldn’t have to fight so hard to get them to love you.
The theme of Ted and The Mother, Tracy’s relationship throughout this last episode and of the show, was that living a fairytale and living happily ever after are two different things. Ted saw Robin across a crowded bar, stole her the blue French horn, and hired a five-piece orchestra to serenade her in a room full of roses, but they still didn’t work out. Barney planned the most elaborate of plays to propose to Robin and spared no expense in creating the most lavish and princess-like wedding experience for her, but their relationship ended in divorce. In Ted’s relationship with Tracy, absolutely nothing went as planned. They chose a lame restaurant on their first date, then ran into Tracy’s ex, almost ending the evening prematurely.
Then Tracy got pregnant while they were in the middle of planning their wedding, and they put off getting married for so long that they were wed last minute in an intimate ceremony of just a few friends. Nothing went quite the way that Schmosby had always thought it would. But when it comes to Lebenslanger-Schicksalsschatz, anything goes. This theme has always been around. Lily and Marshall experience a rocky engagement and the most disastrous wedding of all time in one of the early season, and still go on to have a successful marriage.
Then Ted early on mentions that the day he told Tracy he loved her was the day they ate a horrible lunch and missed a movie screening. Barney even realizes it when he unexpectedly becomes a father and enjoys it. When you find your lifelong treasure of destiny, every mishap or disaster somehow ends in happily ever after.
How I Met Your Mother may have always had its similarities to sitcoms and love stories that came before it, but it did something for the audience that the other comparable shows cannot claim to have done: It gave hope to the viewer from beginning to end. The story of How I Met Your Mother is a story about hope. When anyone who is unwantedly single, mourning the death of a relationship or hitting a roadblock in their current one watches this show, no matter what Ted is going through, they know that at some point he does earn and get what he wants.
Whether you chose to believe the original ending or the alternative ending was the true outcome, it was a beautiful story that encouraged a generation to look at the times in their life when they were about to lose hope in something, and think of Marshall Eriksen’s voice in their head telling them “Not yet.”