Leave while you’re still having fun.
All good things must come to an end.
My mother dutifully did her best to instill these truisms. But I didn’t believe.
I wanted to eek out that last drop of pleasure. Stay until the bitter end. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was a trailblazer for what is now an accepted condition: Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO).
So, once I was old enough to set my own schedule, I wouldn’t leave a party until I and my friends were exhausted, worn out, and starting to squabble. Or maybe cry. When all anyone wanted was just some time alone, and by the time we left, we all had bad feelings mixed with the good.
The past few weeks have seen a number of endings.
After eight years, Game of Thrones called it a wrap.
Orange is the New Black announced that the upcoming season seven will be its last.
On a more personal note, at my kids’ high school the seniors had their last day. The school feels empty without a quarter of its students.
My weekly excursions into the nature sanctuary with my parent/tot class are over until the fall.
After a year and a half of two-hour gatherings every Wednesday, my son’s Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) crew has disbanded. One of the four members is a graduating senior. He is moving on to a summer job and college. His Wednesday afternoons are no longer his own.
The guys prepared for this moment for weeks. They set aside a Sunday for a marathon four-hour session/party to celebrate their time together.
And yet, no matter how much we plan. No matter how much we recognize that things end, it is bittersweet. A loss of something we enjoyed and to which we can never return.
My own personal epiphany on how to manage these moments didn’t come until I was in my early 20s. Post college. Pre graduate school. I was in a job that challenged me and that I enjoyed. And, I had finally, moved into the city. Given the reality of my low-paying job and the high costs of city living, home was a semidetached house I shared with six other women. Hey, at least we each had our own room!
At 24, I was the youngest for most of that year.
I didn’t know any of them prior to moving in, yet it was a magical time. One woman met, dated, and became engaged to her husband. I had a bird’s eye view of their courtship as he often came by and hung out with me in the kitchen while I was cooking dinner and he was waiting for her to get ready. She and I had frank conversations about their developing intimacy. How, although she loved him dearly, she didn’t feel the excitement she had once found in a brief, whirlwind fling. Should she be looking for that type of intensity in a sustaining relationship or was that part and parcel of the brevity of the fling?
Another woman held a weeks-long vigil beside her father’s hospital bed. Dealing with the uncertainty and fear of a life threatening illness. And, once he improved, struggling to accept his refusal to discuss the time he had been in a coma.
The oldest of our crew, at 30-something, had spent a decade leading tours throughout Europe. Now she had started law school. She came from a large family and her youngest sister had Down’s syndrome, a fact which significantly shaped her worldview.
And, during that year, I dated and then broke up with a man I had thought I would marry. I applied to graduate school and faced my reluctance to return to what to me was sometimes a stifling form of education. The learning by doing that was possible in my career resonated more strongly than the formal, university-style instruction. Yet, after being one of the final two candidates for several jobs, and after extensive networking, I finally heeded the advice I had heard over and over, that without a masters, my options would always be limited.
What we had for that year was ephemeral. We were all in transition. I wasn’t the only one moving on. But I was thankful that I had had that year. I still remember, and savor the time and all I learned.
So, when my son is feeling blue about his D&D group disbanding. I acknowledge his loss, but also share how happy I am that he had that time with this great group of guys.
Our lives are filled with moments. Rather than mourning the losses, I try to celebrate that I had the chance to participate.
Perhaps what I ultimately learned from the days when I stayed too late at those long ago parties is that the good times don’t actually continue indefinitely. Even if you stay, it comes to an end. So why not embrace the end and welcome the change, rather than grasping at something inherently fleeting, and perhaps more beautiful and special exactly because it is fleeting.
So, I guess I just proved the adage that there are some things you can never teach no matter how hard you try. You have to learn them on your own. Sorry Mom, it was a good effort.