This year has been one of endings.
The Avengers, Rise of Skywalker, and Game of Thrones released final chapters of their epic sagas this year. Characters we have grown to love over the years have closed their arcs and, in some cases, completed their destiny – whether in death, sacrifice, fulfillment or the happy ending we’d all been rooting for.
A decade is also coming to a close.
We have witnessed during the 2010’s massive political upheavals, a global financial crisis, racial unrest, the Internet of things, the #metoo movement, and the dominance of streaming movies, television, and music.
Beyoncé’s world dominance remained constant throughout the 2010s. She “ran the world”, was “drunk in love”, served her husband and the rest of the world Lemonade, gave birth to three children, and founded an entire HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) in front of our eyes during her historic 2018 Coachella performance.
Closer to home, many people have lost jobs, loved ones, families, or an old identity this year.
The identity and sense of self many people forged were changed due to circumstance, health, or an unforeseen event that shook them to the core. They gaze out of 2019 with scared, but hopeful eyes about what the new year and decade might bring.
Beneath the Instagram filters of our lives, some of us are asking how do we find the strength to begin again when endings can be so painful, and the future is anything but certain?
What a Difference a Decade Makes
I began the 2010’s as a very different person.
I was a political operative in North Carolina. However, I routinely thought about ditching my job to work at Bojangles, a regional chicken-and-biscuits chain, because its district and unit managers earned nearly twice my salary.
I was in an emotionally abusive, high-profile, relationship. I started a short-lived fashion blog based on my love of J Crew. I considered tap pants as a fashion statement. And according to Facebook, I spent my weekends dancing and singing on stage while wearing leather pants with an 80s cover band.
Now, I live in a small beach community in the Mexican Caribbean. I’m single. I’m a writer and surprisingly became a filmmaker this year. My wardrobe consists of maxi dresses and sandals. I frequently take public transportation and the only singing I do is in the shower.
This year was also a year of endings for me.
I chose to end my career as a full-time freelance writer because I was tired of the pitch-and-rejection grind and needed a steady source of income. I missed weighing in on issues at the intersection of race, politics, and pop culture. However, the decision gave me more time to work on international partnerships that increase understanding, repair harm, restore relationships, and build social capital.
With the deaths of my parents in 2013 and 2016, respectively, I often described myself as an “orphan in the world.” I defined myself by my perceived loneliness, isolation, and alienation from others. I learned to let that go in October while filming my documentary Return of the Black Madonna.
I visited my parents’ joint graves for the first time in three years and placed flowers on their tombstone. Seeing the marble slab with their names and dates gave their deaths the finality I needed to go on with my life.
I thanked my parents for everything they gave me and said I hoped they were proud of the woman I became. I no longer felt like an orphan when I left the cemetery. I am an adult with a rich lineage who hopes to take the family tree in new and interesting places.
Meeting the Moment
So, where is the wisdom of endings that the title of this essay promised?
The wisdom is in meeting the moment, the ending, from where you are, as you are.
When things end, we rather wished they didn’t. Depending on the situation, we want the ending to be something else. Our resistance to reality casts us into depression, despair, and pain. This is a normal response to painful change. The mini Baptism by tears that grief brings is natural. What isn’t normal is pretending you’re okay when you’re not and running from the wisdom that endings can bring.
Meeting the moment takes courage and compassion for yourself.
It means sitting in the situation without judgment among the messiness of your feelings and just feeling the damn thing for as long as it takes. You cannot skip this step. Unfortunately, as I know from recent experiences, there is no relationship, dating app, television show, drug, new outfit, or exotic vacation that will change the pain of endings, including the ones we choose.
Wisdom eventually comes in the “strong, still voice” that whispers the lesson, next step, or reassurance that we’ll be okay no matter what happens. This wisdom is intrinsic to you and it belongs to you because on the soul level it is you.
Whether the 2010s and 2019 were awful, amazing or somewhere in between, I hope you find the wisdom of endings. In each ending, I hope you find and cultivate the seeds of a new beginning. May you water your seeds with joy, laughter, and compassion so that you grow beyond your wildest imagination.