Remember,” my friend said through the phone, “when everything felt like it was the end of the world as teenagers, and that feeling ended when we were 28?”
She finished her sentence with a certainty, but I quickly chimed in, barely letting silence nestle between her statement and my reply.
“It ended? No, it still feels like the end of the world when things end... especially relationships.”
We continued our conversation, and as we talked, we discussed the fact that we get accustomed to endings, but the feeling of an ending never quite goes away.
After I got off the phone, I thought about whether the world would stop ending when things come to an end. I did not really have an answer for that, but instead I reviewed snapshots of endings from my past.
The sadness I felt when I realized my 7-year-old body no longer fit into my favorite, ruffled chiffon yellow dress that I wore as a toddler. On one particular day, I kept tugging on it as my ears ignored the sound of tearing.
The passing of my maternal grandmother. In the funeral home, all I kept thinking was that I wanted some silent alone time with her body to say a goodbye in my own way as I sat listening to the chatter of my Aunt Pat.
As quickly as I traveled to Georgia for the funeral, I was back at work the following week, having made little space to reflect on my grandmother’s death and the fact that a world that I wanted to know — the space that included getting to know my grandmother after 14 years of estrangement — had ended for good.
Then there was saying goodbye to a car (and, of course, I’ve had many of those moments).
This past January, I unceremoniously cleaned out my car, which had died. It was a gift from a dear friend, and it gave me seven months of not feeling so stuck in a small town, of a taste of adventure and options.
I procrastinated the cleaning because a large part of me did not want to feel stuck without the transportation I’d been relying on.
I made several trips between my car and the car I had borrowed, while trying to navigate the snow that created a cradle around my car, essentially burying it.
I had 20 minutes to clear away the snow, grab my crap, make peace with anything mistakenly left behind, and say farewell.
* * *
Whether it was a dress outgrown, a goodbye to a loved one, or coming to terms with being a pedestrian again, a world as I knew it had ended.
From my days as a youth to now, the intensity of my worlds disintegrating did not lessen, but at certain times, I developed a certain understanding or numbness.
Was the world-ending feeling supposed to be a sign of emotional maturity or adulthood once that feeling stopped occurring? If so, based on my level of theater and reaction as I made sense of it all, I failed.
As a number of things in my life ended — marriages, friendships, jobs — it prepped me for the making and unmaking of new lives and new worlds. They’ve neither become easier, nor have they lent any more emotional wisdom other than becoming adept in knowing and remembering to ride the wave.
As a world ends through tragedy, circumstance, or something as innocuous as favorite clothing outgrown, something else always takes shape.
Yet it comes with that same intense feeling I felt as a teenager and young adult — you know, that feeling I said does not go away.
What feels different now is that I’ve given myself permission to honor that feeling while attempting to remember that something else is being made within that moment of unmaking.
* * *
Perhaps my friend was right, I thought, and yet, maybe there is some truth in the fact that endings still feel intense. A world or a moment does indeed end, causing a reaction and leaving the residue of feelings that are sometimes unnamed. Life does indeed become unstitched, unhinged, unmade.
Sometimes I remember that another pattern of good, bad, or indifference is woven as all of that is taking place.
So to all of the young ones wondering if that intensity of a world ending goes away: It doesn’t.
And to the adults questioning if they have a right to dread the unmaking because it is a feeling reserved for the so-called unwise youth?
You have a right.
And it is all okay.