“You’re starting a new chapter of you’re life,” he says to me with something of vicarious excitement.
I agree, knowing he’s right. I should be excited, too. But there’s just one problem with starting a new chapter: it means ending another. When the chapter is bad and terrible and devastating, causing each passing second to feel like dripping glue, it’s liberating and freeing to finally move onto the next.
But when the chapter is everything you could have wished for in your entire life…
I try to comfort myself, thinking of chapters – beginnings and endings – as a necessary part to life, and one that – without it – would cause life to be utterly boring, events indistinguishable from the next. Reading a novel is much like living life, I tell myself. The novel is broken up into chunks and sequences, each chapter rendering a new set of circumstances and events, some vastly different than their neighbors, some much more significant to the story as a whole, but each important in their own right too. The chapters make the book readable, allowing for the reader to pause and reflect between each chapter. Without the existence of chapters, perhaps nobody would want to read books. Without chapters, perhaps books wouldn’t exist.
Maybe the chapters in life offer the same ‘readability’ to the experience of living. As we know, and as I’m experiencing now, life is nothing but the compilation of distinguished chapters. Each chapter is defined by something different, perhaps a certain person, or a relationship, or a life event, a big failure, a devastating loss, or an overwhelming achievement.
The circumstances and possibilities that can come to represent chapters in our lives are endless, and unlike many chapters in most books, the length of the chapters in our lives vary greatly, too. Some chapters string on for years, perhaps at the hands of an unfulfilled goal or the unrelenting lusting after the one that got away. Other chapters are jam packed full of events and occurrences, lasting only a few months, but leaving such a lasting impression as if they’d extended for years. Perhaps the biggest difference between life’s chapters and the chapters of a book is what happens between them.
On that blank portion of the page that leads to a new chapter, a new beginning, we generally have one of two feelings: relief that the chapter is over so that we can finally go to sleep, or anticipation and excitement for the next, unable to put the book down. In life, when we end one chapter and begin another, we can feel both of these emotions, too, but as I’m feeling my way through this emotional period, I realize there’s a third one here that’s virtually nonexistent in the pages of books.
The blank page – the moment of pause and reflection – that rests at the end of each chapter in our lives, which signifies to us the commencement of a new one very soon, also implies something else: saying goodbye, letting go, moving on. And no matter how positive the step forward is for you and your life, maybe it’s impossible to avoid a certain feeling of sadness and loss, for – unlike books – the chapters of your life cannot be reread. They cannot be relived. They can only be remembered.
So what does one do when they are forced to say goodbye to the best chapter they’ve ever read? The one that was full of excitement and international travels, causing the setting to continuously change with breathtaking visions, and vivid and colorful wonders. The one that was busting at the seams with chance encounters and lovely characters, offering glimpses of life in all its endless forms. The one that offered the best plot twist, reintroducing the one that got away, their greatest, most compelling and challenging character foil. And finally, the one that introduced the protagonist to herself for the very first time, transforming her and freeing her from the sadness of her past. And though this protagonist is strong, she feels much loss and sadness as she enters the world that extends in front of her, unsure of what it will bring, and only certain of what’s behind her.
Chapter 23. A chapter she’ll remember forever.
The chapter of her life.