It's hard to say goodbye to the comfortable and the familiar, especially when the leaving is out of your control.
We're human. We like routines and we're most comfortable with the familiar. But we and everything in our lives are constantly changing. Relationships, goals, and jobs are not static. It seems that everything has a life cycle: a beginning and an end, and when over, then it's time to move on.
Sometimes we leave things behind, sometimes they leave us, causing us to wonder why they had to end.
They can be little things, like some of our favorite items stocked in the local grocery store that are suddenly missing. And can't be found anywhere else, either. They can be more significant, such as friendships that dissolve through arguments, people who move away and gradually lose touch, or relationships in which the parties just grow apart in different directions.
We can feel sour about the ending, especially if we think we've been given the short end of the stick. Ideally, the parting would be sweet, with wonderful memories to carry us forward. Often enough, it's bittersweet. For example, this spring I'm excited to be a speaker at VO Atlanta 2022, the largest voiceover industry event in the world. But I'm also quite saddened that this will be the very last one year it will be held. Its founder, the highly talented Gerald Griffith, is moving on to other things. It's my choice how to take it.
It's your choice: the bitter, bittersweet, or sweet ending
Holding on too tightly is stagnation.
"You can't live in the past."
Yes, we've all heard that a thousand times. It's true, though. Being stuck in the past, constantly looking backwards, gives us no proper view of today or a vision of tomorrow. If we're mired in the past, we become rigid and cease to adapt, learn, and grow.
This is the bitter ending. It just doesn't leave a good taste in our mouths, especially if we're resentful about the whole thing. If we let the bitter define us, we'll just drive other people away from us, too.
Bitter can sometimes just be sad. Like holding on too tightly to earlier versions of ourselves, especially when we've clearly outgrown them. Haven't we all seen at one time the older woman who insists on dressing and acting like her teenage daughter? Or the older man flirting with girls a few decades his junior, posturing as one of their cool contemporaries? It's not just the older folks, either. A few years back, I was talking to a young woman about to turn thirty, and she was actively freaking out, terrified that she was hurtling into middle age and irrelevancy, and would forever be alone. She had no interest in hearing about all the good that the next decade promised. No, she wanted nothing to change. I wonder if she finally came to terms and realized the benefit of greater maturity, professional recognition, and a deeper perspective on life. Or if she's just frozen mentally and emotionally in her 20s, unable and unwilling to shed her old skin and grow.
Releasing the old makes room for the new.
Bittersweet cherishes the past, but is able to make room for the future. I think of it like a garden. Pansies are my winter flower of choice, but they do take a bit of maintenance. Removing old, spent blooms helps the plant provide maximum energy towards growing new flowers. Likewise, in the vegetable garden, we have to sweep away the muck of past, dead seasons to prepare the soil in the spring for young plants to thrive, grow, and produce. We miss the beauty of the past, but accept that its season has past. Now we go forward with the knowledge and experience we gained to prepare for what's coming next. And we look forward to it with positive expectations.
As a mom, I'm watching my kids grow to adulthood and leave the nest. One has already done so, the other is in full preparation. I've enjoyed every age and stage they've been and I love looking at old photos, especially from when they were babies and toddlers. But my job is to prepare them for adulthood and free them to live their lives, hopefully with all the positive life lessons that their dad and I have tried to instill in them. Bittersweet, but I love watching them grow into the wonderful people they are and look forward to seeing them start their own new families one day.
Appreciation and gratitude lead to contentment.
Mark an ending. Commemorate or celebrate it. Then look to the future and move on.
Maybe it's the chocolate lover in me, but I prefer a sweet ending. Not everything can be viewed in a positive light, but if possible, I will choose to regard it that way.
Those favorite grocery store items? Well, they may no longer be available, but I've discovered other alternatives I enjoy or can now make from scratch myself. Yes, I'll miss VO Atlanta and fondly remember it, but there will be other events where I can share my experience as a guest speaker. As for my youth ... well, I'm still doing pretty well physically and I'm a whole lot happier now than I was in my 20s. Maturity and experience lend perspective and (shall I say?) wisdom, and a much greater acceptance of ourselves. Having weathered more of life, I think that as we grow older we also develop appreciation and and a sense of gratitude, which leads to contentment. Sweet.
Laura's Quick Tips
You choose your perspective: bitter, bittersweet, or sweet.
Living in the past prevents you from enjoying the present.
Keep the good, learn from experience, and choose wisely in the future.
If your experience is truly awful, if your loss is overwhelming and unexpected, and if what life throws at you seems truly unfair ... you're right. I'm sorry for what you're going through. Take the time to mourn, to ponder why, and to wonder what the next steps should be. You have the natural need to do so and to work through the grieving process. But when it's mostly done - and it will be - lift up your head and choose how you will remember that which you loved and cherished. What its legacy should be. How you will take the best of it forward and leave behind that which is best not dwelled upon. You will choose life and growth.
I hope you choose the sweet or bittersweet ending.