The beginning of the year is a weird time to think about endings. Hard to tell if that’s bad luck or perfect timing.
As a society, we tend to use New Year’s Eve as a marker for change. It’s just as arbitrary as any other date we put on things … Arbor Day, the filing deadline for Federal Income Taxes, that one time your date lied about your birthday to get free dessert after dinner. Incrementing that integer is seen as a chance to change your life, start a fresh set of goals on a freshly opened calendar.
It’s a time for change. However, not all changes mean you start something new. My year starts with many changes. Some of those changes involve ending things. My podcast is a simple example, other things are far more complex. I’ve also watch people close to me end their year with similar changes. Not beginnings something new, but ending something old.
But here’s the weird thing about endings … they aren’t always bad.
The endings we hate are the ones that come too soon. We all expect a book to end, but we get wicked pissed if that book has a stupid ending. A forced and abrupt ending. The sort of ending that makes you want to throw Volume One out the window instead of pre-ordering Volume Two on amazon.com. We hate the endings that don’t come on our terms … the ones that offer no resolution … the ones that threaten to erase any joy of the beginning.
Imagine getting towards the end of The Return of the King, expecting Sam and Frodo to crest Mount Doom and destroy the Shiny Gold MacGuffin once and for all … when suddenly Frodo’s cousin Douche Baggins comes along to steal the ring and finish the task without them. That crashing sound you hear is thousands of encyclopedia-sized tomes being catapulted out of windows onto unsuspecting pedestrians below.
If unexpected endings really bothered people, George R.R. Martin wouldn’t be a rich man. Tumblr would also be a lot quieter.
The ending of Peter Jackson’s CGI-fueled The Return of the King is a thing of beauty. Watching it ties the previous eleven-and-a-half hours of popcorn and delayed bathroom breaks together. It’s a satisfying way to wrap up the journey, no matter how much it makes me cry. Yes, men can cry at movies. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if the movie has hours of kick-ass fight scenes. Stop judging me!
What people really hate about endings isn’t the end, it’s being unprepared for their arrival. Being bitter about how things end can color the way you remember the beginning, or poison the way you remember the journey. YES, I’M TALKING TO YOU, MATRIX TRILOGY!
What I meant to say is that endings can make you bitter if they pop up unexpectedly, or perhaps didn’t exactly play out the way you saw them in your head. That bitterness is a hard thing to fight. You had this story, and now it’s … well, it’s over. There are now empty pages at the end of a book you’re not ready to stop reading.
Those empty pages can be a gift. Do you shred the pages in an act of spite, burn them as fuel for your bitterness, or use them to write a new story? Every ending you walk away from, however unexpected or unpleasant, is your chance to start something new.
It’s a new year.
It will be wonderful.
It will be unexpected.
Now matter how it ends, you’ll miss a lot of it when it’s over.