For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of endings. I don’t mean to say the past 19 years have been plagued with a looming fear of death or apocalyptic destruction. I’m talking about an inner reluctance to move on from, let go of and say goodbye to the people, places and events that have shaped my life.
Common emotional challenges for me include — but are by no means limited to — birthdays, new years and major milestones.
I can still remember tearing up on my 13th birthday. When my parents asked me what was wrong, I told them I was sad I would no longer be a kid. “Yeah, it’s all downhill from here,” my Dad said, trying to make me laugh the way he always does.
But that wasn’t quite it. I wasn’t afraid of facing the future, becoming an adult or accepting new responsibilities. Nor was I in mourning of the frizzy, awkward rollercoaster that was my pre-teenage existence.
I just wasn’t ready to let go of 12-years-old. I guess most would classify my condition as a fear of change. But to me it seems much more complex.
I felt a similar sadness while taking one last look at my classmates before leaving my senior celebration on the night of graduation. I should clarify that my high school career was nothing more than typical. To give you the Reader’s Digest version of those four years: I survived.
By the time I’d committed to Michigan, I was very ready for new people, buildings and experiences. Yet no matter how excited I was to move on, I could not escape the inevitable churning in my stomach that came during graduation.
It’s hard to explain what I was feeling because I knew I would stay close to the people I truly cared long after graduation. But what about everyone — and everything — else?
There wasn’t a chance I would miss the rigid bell schedule, mandatory math classes and stereotypically segregated cliques I’d endured in high school. Yet, I still couldn’t help but feel sad that I would never be in the same place with the same people doing the same things again. That’s what bothers me the most about endings.
There remains something very sad to me about coming to the realization that, in that moment, I was taking my last look at the group of people who — for better or worse — collectively shaped my high school experience and therefore the person I am today.
It’s obviously much easier to pinpoint the reason behind my sadness as I watched my brother pack the car in preparation for his freshman year of college. I would miss him completely, and living at home never felt quite right after he left.
But I’ve come to realize that it’s not impossible to miss things I never necessarily valued. I guess all emotions attached to different people and places — whether good or bad — are what make them real and therefore hard to let go of.