Conclusion. noun. According to Dictionary.com’s elaborate definition, “end.”
The party is over.
The house is quiet, the robe and mortarboard are stowed away, the cheesecake is gone, and my little sister’s high school career is finished. Tis the time of year for graduations. And for conclusions.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with these buggers.
At my own graduation, I was thrilled by the prospect of moving on from my tiny hometown, of gaining independence, of escaping the same-old, same-old that comes from living in a place with no strangers and one restaurant. But even I, the girl who refused to cry during the ceremony because I was so dang excited to be done, felt a twinge of nostalgia, the significance of the moment that was passing. Even I had to admit the unknown, looming future was a teensy bit scary, and that I wasn’t quite sure how things were going to pan out.
This battle sneaks over into the realm of books and words, too. I am conflicted when I flick the last page of a spellbinding book, reveling in knowing how the story ends but dreading saying goodbye to the alternate universe I’ve discovered. No more vivid characters to engage in imaginary conversations. No more discovery in new places and times. No more intriguing plot to untwist. According to Pinterest, other people have this problem, too. It’s diagnosed as a book hangover. The dread of the book hangover is the reason I’ve been soaking up chapters of To Kill a Mockingbird for months, desperate not to leave the world of saucy seven-year-olds and small-town Southern drama. I’m no good at writing my own conclusions, either. I like the idea of wrapping up a piece, finishing with a memorable pop and loose ends knotted in a neat little bow. But what turns out pretty and satisfying for others feels repetitive, pretentious, or annoying when I try.
And then, bigger than a book hangover or a flopped final paragraph, there are the real-life conclusions. The end of a favorite class. The goodbye to comfortable routines and places. The partings with far-away friends who won’t be seen for months. After two years of college and countless conclusions in other arenas, I still have no idea how to do these well. Do I recount sentimental memories, reliving all of the good times we’ve had? Do I offer some dry, direct derivative of “I like you. Have a great summer.”? Do I go in for a hug?
I have no answers to these questions. And I also have no great insights about conclusions. All of my experience has led me to this stunning realization: they happen. We can’t hold life still, can’t cling to the last few days of high school or college or a relationship and stretch them out until we’re ready to let go. Things are going to change. They might go down the toilet, or they might turn out tremendously. But we cannot change the fact that life is going to keep chugging along, chapters closing and doors banging shut along the way. I guess all we can do is try to keep up, to look back and smile but to keep moving, to keep living.
And that’s all I’ve got. See? I told you I was bad at conclusions.