500 Words, Day 28: The End / by dan turner

Endings are rarely easy.

There's the problem of ending narratives, in the Lost/Seinfeld/Breaking Bad (which I still maintain would be better as a death dream, a la Life on Mars) sense. There's the problem of ending an essay, of making it tie up so perfectly the thread first spun in its opening line. There's the problem of knowing when your work is done, which it never is. There's the problem of ending relationships, whether they end by moving, or a breakup, or death, or just drifting apart.

There's also the problem of stopping. By that I mean: stopping is not the same as ending, but we so often try to pretend it is.

"Suddenly, everyone was run over by a truck."

"Eh, the engineers thought it was a cool feature. Ship it."

"I can't run/pedal/fight any more."

"You stopped calling."

Stopping is a cessation of effort. No more pain, or burden of decision. An end run around the problem of the Hurricane Theory. Stopping (even suicide) is not ending, but the opposite; making an ending requires a great deal of work and the terrible decisions of closing off all other potentials. In that, it shares much with the problem of starting.

Stopping sure is easier. It's definitely why so many people just leave it to others to assume that a lack of contact equals a decision (whether this is in the context of job interviews or dating). It's also easy, in this case, to forget that what you're doing it outsourcing the work to the other person involved, with all the attached ethical implications.

Today is the last day of September, and as such it is the last day of the 500 Words of September challenge. So after posting this I will stop the practice of writing and posting 500-word essays (to categorize them charitably). It doesn't mean it all ended, or wrapped up to any significance, any more than getting a terminal degree did, and it doesn't mean the end of having and expressing opinions. Or the end of trying to bend other peoples' ears about them. I have learned lessons. I've been reminded of old body and brain habits that I'd not have had without participating in this practice.

Will I look forward to waking up tomorrow, knowing I won't have to stress about finding a topic, about making microdecisions around every word chosen (good choices are rarely noticed, while poor ones stand out like Comic Sans), about having to think of extended comma-connected phrases to pad out the day's entry? You bet. It's the relief one feels when dropping a class. Less will be asked of you.

But that's kind of sad. It's the kind of sad when a parent says to a child, "We expected more of you." I'd do anything to not hear that. So I'll keep trying to think about how to end it all well. It's not easy. At all.

And that is the last 500 words.