I used to be thoroughly mystified by people who had trouble with things ending.
Whether it was the end of a play date, summer, movie, camp or school year, I always felt as if whatever it was had more than run its course. I loved my grammar school but didn’t understand the wracking sobs of my friends as they hugged me and didn’t let go. On the last day of camp, I’d be excitedly thinking about the coming school year and not clutching counselors and shrieking about how unfair it was that it was all over.
This, of course, changed. The first time I felt devastated by an ending was when I got to the end of my junior year in college, which I had spent in Cambridge, England. I’d gone there because I’d wanted to go abroad and felt too lazy to get my French up to speed or learn an entirely new language, and was loathed to discover how different the English educational system was from what I was used to.
“Go off then and read this,” the Cambridge tutor said during my first week there, motioning to our copies of Jane Eyre. The next class, a different tutor handed us Beowulf and said essentially the same thing. My third class was the only other class I was enrolled in. Essentially, I was told that I’d be in tutorials for six hours a week and the other 162 hours were to be spent however I’d like — so long as I got Jane Eyre and Beowulf read.
I was horrified — and terrified. I’d always fancied myself something of an independent person, mostly because I seemed to have trouble with authority, and it was humbling to realize how safe I’d always felt in school because all of my time was regimented into pockets that never left me enough time to examine my life or myself. I didn’t seem to click with any of the other students — American or British — and I was as lonely as I’d ever been.
I remember crying to my mom and receiving letters from her about how we were all born alone and died alone and that it was good for me to finally know what being alone felt like (letters that usually made me cry harder). And then one day I got off my ass, started reading what I was assigned, and stopped complaining and started reaching out to people I never would have before. I got a bike and made my way around the utterly charming town. I moved out of the house with the Americans and in with some Brits. I got in a play that performed in a theater where Audrey Hepburn supposedly made her debut. I got a job in a pub. And I felt so incredibly proud of every move toward independence that I made because I’d done each thing on my own and had conquered massive fears I’d never before acknowledged even having to do so.
By the time that I’d decided I might want to stay and live in England for the rest of my life, the year was over and I was on a plane back home. And as I sobbed on the plane, thinking of my British friends and my independence and the fact that I’d finally gotten excited about learning and studying because I was so inspired by the way I was taught, I’d felt great satisfaction — that I was just like everyone else, and actually got sad when things ended.
Since then, I’ve been devastated by many endings — the end of relationships with men I’ve loved, the end of a book (I could read London Fields literally forever), the end of my book party (I was so overwhelmed that I only started to realize how amazing it was at about 3 pm the following day), the end of innocence on so many different friends. I actually think I may still be trying to process the fact that college ended and that was quite some time ago.
How do you deal with endings?