A Musing On Endings

Dear quarter lives,

There are few certainties in life, perhaps the most certain of them all is that we will die. More so than that is that all those who we love will die. Everything dies, be it a living being or our youth or a marriage or job — everything ends. Even the world as we know it, at least from our point of view, ends when we die. Endings therefore shape our lives and in turn how we relate, not only to ourselves, but to the whole world around us. And as many people as there are right now, there are just as many ways of relating to endings. Endings offer some people clarity, a clean finish without which they cannot grieve and move forward; whilst for others, endings bring them anxiety reminding them that with each breath, they themselves are ending. But on the back of every ending is a new beginning. On the back of death, life is born and so how can we truly love living without loving dying first. For me personally, learning to see the beauty in death has helped me see the beauty in life. I went through a period of intense death anxiety in my mid-twenties, and one of the things that helped me overcome this fear of death was taking photographs of dead things that would cross my path, be it a bird or an insect or a flower. Slowly, I began to see beauty, I began to notice the body, its fragility, its vulnerability, yet its power to shape the kind of life we experience. It is my unique body that allows me to experience life from my eyes. It is my body too that dies when my life in it ends. But what happens to my spirit, my soul, where does it go? In all those pictures I have taken, it was clear that these were just bodies, albeit beautiful bodies, but bodies without a soul, they were left behind for the earth to consume them because to whom does a body belong but to the mother body that holds us all. 

I remember my last term at university, I was so afraid all the time, not because I had exams coming up, but because I was graduating, my time in London was coming to an end, and I didn’t know what the future held for me. I was sad to leave friends behind. I was sad to leave a way of living I had gotten accustomed to behind. I was sad to say goodbye to a version of me that was dying. I would never again be an undergraduate. I would never again be 20. I would never again be so impressionable. No more blank canvases. I was all scribbled over now. I would never be new, not like seventeen year-old me. I would only grow older and older. The future —all of it — just seemed dreadful. Not that the past wasn’t difficult, but the future just seemed daunting instead of possible. I share this because I am sharing with you how endings made me feel, and still make me feel, although I must admit I am much more hopeful now than I ever was when I was eighteen. So maybe in losing youth, one gains hope or rather faith that it all works out in the end; even if we don’t arrive, we will survive. I can see clearly now how I navigate transitions — with loads and loads of fear. What I suppose is different now is that when I was younger, I used to believe the fear. Now, I just hear it out, nod a little to acknowledge it, but I certainly do not believe anything it has to tell me because I know most of the time, there is extreme exaggeration happening. So tens years on from my London goodbye, I am at the verge of another goodbye and so I wish now to meet this ending differently. I wish to be grateful to all the people, events, places — good and bad — that have held me over the past years. I would like to say thank you and offer a big smile right from the heart. I would like to say to the future that awaits me — to the beginning dawning on me — I am very excited to meet you. I would like to hope, instead of despair. I would like to let the possible pull me forward, instead of letting the impossible hold me back. I would like to move forward knowing that when I do look back, I will feel full with contentedness and gratitude — not because things were perfect but because they were a stop on my journey. When I wake up in fifty years time, and I hope I do, I want to wake up eager for another day and grateful for eighty years worth of days that I have said goodbye to. When my body dies in fifty eight years time, I hope that I can say goodbye to it and let go of my long small life. 

With love and always for peace,

S.A.

Wrapping up

Dear quarter lives,

I turned the big 3 0 a couple of months ago, and since then I must say life feels different in some very big ways and much the same in many everyday ways. That feeling of same but different is something I’ve commonly heard from people crossing that border. Perhaps because time feels different. Perhaps because to have revolved around the sun living on this giant piece of watery rock thirty times is no small feat. For it certainly puts things into perspective. Big picture vision is one new skill the thirties gift you with. Another is a less apologetic way of being — a kind of simultaneous I love you but f*** off to the world — which I have to say is f***ing amazing. But now that I feel I am starting to firmly root myself in a new decade’s way of being, I am too being asked to unroot myself from a previous decade and that is a little scary, and in doing so, I will be going through a period of packing up what I still need to carry forward with me from the quarter life period and leave behind everything else. I suppose the reason it’s so scary for me is that I find it hard to leave things behind. I hold on till the very last moment, until I’m almost forced to let go. I don’t necessarily think of myself as a hoarder of “things” but maybe a hoarder of ideas and dreams. And I am usually good at decluttering things too, but when it comes to people or thoughts, I get a bit stuck.

All relationships whether with family, friends, emotions, time periods, always will require of us a review and assess period. Of course any review and assess period will naturally be a little more fragile because much is moving, much is unknown, and yet what is known is that whatever the change will be, it is for the better. And sometimes the better is an ending. Sometimes the better is separation. Sometimes leaving things behind is exactly what is good for those things and for you. And as much as it can pain one to leave precious memories, people or unexpressed potential behind, it can also be extremely healing; in very much the same way a full stop at the end of a sentence gives us the space to breathe to start a new one, so can an ending give us the room and distance we need to accept and make peace with how things turned out and start a new chapter with ample breathing room to try again to make a well structured or perhaps just a funny sentence. Endings give us closure, and we all deserve to feel a sense of resolution as we transition from one period of growth onto another.

I am one of those people who deals better with separation from the people she loves by not communicating with them, because that constant exchange only reminds me more of the distance that separates us. I am one of those people that deals better with loss when it is clear and the doors shut completely, and when no sliver of light can creep through and hope of renewal is nowhere to be found. I deal best when the door is clearly shut because only then can I truly let go, and if I can’t let go I won’t be able to grieve, and if I don’t grieve, I won’t be able to transform that loss into anything really and if there’s nothing to transform, I won’t grow and will remain stunted instead. So I know that for me personally, many doors that were slightly ajar in my twenties, as soon as I began approaching my thirties, many of them began to shut completely, some are still in the process of closing what little space they kept open, some are saying their final goodbyes or maybe they are giving me a chance to say my final goodbye, but as I can see all those doors closing and sealing shut, something inside of me is finally beginning to rest. I am finally wrapping up three decades worth of doors and unresolved endings that were left open in my heart. I am finally letting go. I am finally grieving. I am finally growing.

May our hearts find the peace they desire and just the right amount of conflict and tension to get them there.

With love and always for peace,

S.A.