“All good things must come to an end,” Geoffrey Chaucer, famous American poet, once said. As simple as that quote might be, a single phrase has never been more difficult for me to process. For the longest time, I wondered how I could ever process the fact that I would have to say goodbye to the people I love most. How I would have to say goodbye to my best friends, how I had to say goodbye to my grandparents, and how something that I knew in my soul could last forever, just ended. It’s hard. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s borderline impossible at some points to process and move forward. Yet, with how many tears I have shed and how much time I had spent thinking about this, nothing ever stopped the fact that every single thing in this life will come to an end. And in some mind-boggling way, that is what makes life the most beautiful thing of all.
I was first introduced to the anguish of goodbyes when I said goodbye to my grandparents at age 4. Although I was still extremely young, I knew, looking at my father with tears in his eyes and saying goodbye to his parents, that something was ending; something inevitable. I really started to understand it when I quit gymnastics after 13 years of training my body every day. I remember sitting in the bathroom sobbing, completely unable to catch my breath, wondering if this was the right decision. I sat there questioning how something that I saw myself doing for the rest of my life just ended. So then I started to ask, why?
Why does everything have to end? Why do I have to leave home to go into a scary world that would eat me alive? Why would I have to leave my best friends to go make new ones? Why would I have to say goodbye to someone I saw myself spending the rest of my life with?
These questions used to keep me up at night. I just really didn’t understand why everything that brought me joy in this life ended. But getting older meant somewhat maturing. Maturing meant realizing that nothing makes sense in this life. No matter how many equations or answers we seem to have, at the end of the day, we are floating on a rock in the middle of darkness; nothing is going to make sense. So yes, one day you’ll be flying high laughing with your best friends, feeling on top of the world. And the next you’ll be crying in your bed because life is so incredibly hard at points. Those beautiful moments will always come to an end because that is life.
Last May, when I graduated high school I really thought that it was all downhill from there. I remember sitting in my best friend’s room about two weeks after graduating sobbing my actual brains out saying goodbye to her. I was unable to process how this friendship that carried me through the heartbreak and joys of my childhood would be leaving my side for maybe the rest of my life. She looked down at me and said, “Rowan, look at me. Life is about experiencing this sadness. It’s about meeting people that make saying goodbye so hard. It’s about experiencing this sadness and heartbreak so you can feel the joys and love.” Something about that conversation rewired my brain. What if we never experienced the heartache? If we never experienced the sadness, we would never know what it would feel like to experience love. The laughter. The joy. If I stayed in this one place, scared of anything ever ending, then I would never know what it would feel like to feel something else.
If you shut yourself off to the crying on the floor at 3 a.m., then you’re also closing yourself off to the dancing in the kitchen with music blasting and hugging people that feel like home. When you open yourself up to actually feeling something towards someone or something, you are inevitably opening yourself up to knowing that it will end. All of it will end because endings mean redirection. It means change. And as scary as change is, that is what life is. It is about being on this earth for such a short time and knowing that time is always running out. It’s knowing that you yourself are walking to an ending. It’s knowing this and choosing to keep going.
Choosing to still love that boy even when you know it will end. It’s choosing to invest time and energy into friendships because, YES, they are going to change, but wouldn’t you want to experience the uncontrollable laughter and the eternal love rather than not experiencing it all? Wouldn’t you want to see the whole world and meet all the people you can rather than stay in one place because you’re scared of it ending? Doesn’t that life sound so much better than the other choice?
So yes, 4-year-old Rowan, you are going to lose people you love. You are going to lose that boy that you thought was the one. You are going to drift from that friend who brought you all that happiness. You are going to graduate high school even though you thought it was going to last forever. You are going to have to say goodbye to a lot of amazing things. But you know what else? You are going to love. You are going to love some really great people. You are going to laugh. You are going to laugh so hard that you will pee your pants several times. You are going to see so much of the world and experience so many things because you decided that the heartbreak was worth the joy. It was worth it all.
This life is about realizing that every place, moment, event, person, day, and year is going to end. That is completely inevitable. As hard as the endings are, they are the one thing that stays consistent throughout life. So try to make peace with it. Try to realize that you are going to say goodbye to everything you love, but guess what, you got to love. You got to travel. You got to meet some really great people. With as short as the time you had and as many things you had to overcome, you did everything you could have. Endings show you that you are still alive. They show you a different direction. They remind you that time is running out. They remind you to go and do every single thing this life has to offer because you owe it to yourself to do it all.