Some years ago, I fulfilled a dream - I enrolled at a University I'd fallen in love with 10 years before. And you know what, my dream didn't let me down, not one little bit. It was quite the chore to attend - two hours of travel each way, multiple changes of trains, all for 3 hours of teaching. Yet I loved each and every minute. The whole experience gave me a buzz like nothing before or since. Despite being late at night when I finished my two hour journey home, it became my regular practice to chat on the phone, long into the early hours, with another psychology-loving study-junkie friend.
Like most courses, there was an attendance requirement - no problem for me as I attended each and every session - except for the last one. This fact generated an email enquiry from one of my tutors asking whether I might have a problem with endings. My immediate response was I'd simply had a virus for a couple of weeks and was only just well enough to write my final paper, which had to be submitted by midnight that very day. So, I chose to stay home and do that instead. It seemed to me, at the time, an absolute no-brainer. I mean, if I didn't submit it, it would impact on my mark - and I hadn't attended the course with the intention of achieving anything other than my absolute best.
But ... much later, I did ask myself whether there may have been some truth in her question. For although I had struggled with a nasty virus (so nasty that when I read back the essay I'd started to write while ill, it was utter gibberish), there was no avoiding the fact I'd been absolutely dreading the course coming to an end. Dreading it to the extent of being frozen into inaction over the next step, resulting in my preferred courses being fully booked, leaving me floundering, feeling lost and stressed. Had this left me vulnerable to passing germs - the answer to that had to be a resounding yes.
Endings come in all shapes and sizes - some we can avoid but many that we cannot. People I've known and loved have died - endings I couldn't avoid. I had no choice but to deal with the emotions, with the grief and with the practical implications. But when romantic relationships have ended due to break-up, I've gone out of my way to convert those relationships into friendships. I even prided myself on remaining friends with my exes, thinking it was grown-up and mature, for there were no practical reasons for us to remain in touch such as shared children. But with hindsight - was it? Or was it easier for me to keep those people in my life, easier than saying goodbye, than having a true ending?
It may sound like a lot of psychobabble but endings cause a reaction because they're about change, and change is frequently uncomfortable. It may surprise you to learn that it's much easier to deal with change when your circumstances are so unpleasant that you'll run away from them - but when you're relatively comfortable where you are, yet face an end date you cannot influence, behaving like the proverbial ostrich is unhelpful.
Endings - both the practical implications and the emotional reactions they cause - have to be faced and dealt with, for what you've avoided will only come back to bite you later.
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