“You need demarcation.”
“Demarcation?” I asked.
“It means a clear separation between two things,” he told me. “A solid end before a clean beginning. No murky borders. Clarity.”
– Sarah Dessen, The Moon and More
As I was binge-watching old episodes of How I Met Your Mother, I came across an episode in season six that struck a chord with me. In the episode Unfinished, Robin has recently broken up with Don, a boyfriend who had left for a job in Chicago just as things were getting serious. Robin experiences both anger and remorse as she deals with one of the most difficult break-ups of her life, concerned that she will never have closure, and that she and Don “will always be a loose end.”
It is a problem that so many of us face in our lives, whether we are going through a break-up or experiencing another monumental change. Within the realm of relationships, it is difficult to find closure if one or both parties aren’t ready to let go, and as much as we hate to admit it, we often aren’t ready. Lines of communication are kept open, words are minced to soften the blow and suddenly we find ourselves wondering where we would be if X, Y and Z had never happened. Things end in a way we don’t expect and don’t like, and the closure we yearn for is suddenly out of reach.
I remember at the end of my junior year of high school, I finished my cheerleading season with injuries and a few sub-par performances that my sophomore-self wouldn’t have been proud of. Because of my senior year schedule and my new position as a yearbook editor, I knew that cheerleading in my senior year was out of the question, but it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that my season hadn’t ended the way I wanted it. I was devastated, and considered forcing practices and games into my schedule so that I could end my cheerleading career on a brighter note, if only to gain the closure I so desperately needed.
Of course, I realized that would have been a mistake, and while I initially mourned the uniform and pom poms (bear with me, I was a teenager!), I eventually moved on. I had a successful year as a yearbook editor, and not re-joining the team gave me more time to write freelance articles locally. As an adult, I have never regretted the decision I was convinced I would regret at age seventeen.
In my college years and early twenties, I have been in situations that initially lacked closure as well – a break-up I wasn’t ready for, a perfect first date that never led to a second, jobs I applied to that never called back. I have craved closure and sometimes I have even gotten that closure thrown back at me in the worst possible way. However, I have also met new people along the way and even ended up at my dream job.
Throughout Unfinished, Robin struggles to erase Don’s phone number from her memory (and from her cell phone), but by the end of the episode, she forgets it. And just as Robin forgets Don’s number, you too will forget your ex’s nuances (or the job you didn’t get, or the sport you quit, etc.) in certain ways because your brain will be focused on something else: a hobby, perhaps, or someone new. Breaking up with closure can be a tricky thing, but it passes with time as you change your circumstances and create your own closure.
“And the heart,” says Judith Ortiz Cofer in her poem To a Daughter I Cannot Console, “like a well-constructed little boat, will resume its course toward hope.”