Music evokes emotion, plain and simple. For that reason alone, I will never forgive Eve 6 or Vitamin C.
By the time I graduated eighth grade in the spring of 2001, “Here’s to the Night” and “Graduation (Friends Forever)“ were seasonal mainstays. (Honorable mentions go out to “Closing Time” by Semisonic and that so-called song about sunscreen all our parents were obsessed with, as they were both irritating in their own right.) You couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing one or more of these songs on the nightly Top Five countdown, and you couldn’t attend one single school dance or graduation party without finding clusters of sappy 13-year-olds singing along.
Despite the fact that my friends and I were all moving on to the same high school, these songs triggered an odd sort of melancholy that I haven’t been able to shake since.
What’d I learn that year? I hate endings. Even endings that aren’t exactly endings. I’m like Jude Law in The Holiday—I cry all the time. I’m a major weeper.
I’m overwhelmed with sadness whenever I watch the series finale of any television show, even if it ended years ago, because I realize how difficult it must’ve been for the cast and crew to go their separate ways.
I feel an ache—an emptiness—once the curtain closes on any live musical or theatrical performance, for I know that the experience itself and the ensuing high can never be recreated.
Heck, I even tear up during You’ve Got Mail, but not because I’m thrilled that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fall in love. I cry when Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly, locks up her bookshop for the last time, instead, because I cannot even imagine how heartbroken she must be to know she’ll never step foot inside again.
Now, as we say goodbye (ahem, good riddance) to 2016, we are bombarded by ‘In Memoriam’ reels that remind us of all those we’ve lost within the last year. (Turner Classic Movies ran one prior to their showing of The Shop Around the Corner—on Christmas Eve, no less—which really killed the ‘holly jolly’ vibe.) Some people still cannot seem to comprehend why so many internalize these celebrity deaths, as they’ve likely never met in person, but those who chastise fans via social media fail to recognize the influence such stars can have on the average individual.
For those mourning the loss of both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, for instance, the pain goes beyond losing two iconic actresses. Both women reached beyond their on-screen personas to inspire generations of women to embrace who they are and who they want to be. Public figures have the capacity to impact private lives, and any such guidance can transform total strangers into honorary relatives.
Death also causes us to call our own mortality into question. We’re forced to admit that those we love will not be alive forever. Thinking about what life might be like without them by your side may cause some to hyperventilate, as your mind conjures all the worst-case scenarios, which may spark mild bouts of insanity and uncontrollable, ugly sobs. In fact, you might not want to jump down that rabbit hole if you can help it. Your head will feel like it’s about to implode and you won’t be able to see straight.
Might straightjackets and padded cells be the next step on this journey toward total mental collapse? I’m asking for a friend…
But if Semisonic’s “Closing Time” holds any truth, perhaps we need only focus on the positive side of even the bleakest situation in order to keep the sorrow from eating us whole. We must push our minds to look for the proverbial light, even when we’re lost in the metaphorical dark. We must be thankful for what was and excited for what will be, instead of longing for what will never be again. After all, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. If we don’t at least try to focus on the beauty of the future, we may all end up breathing into brown paper lunch sacks for the rest of our days.