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Endings just mean new beginnings

| Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The end of a school year is always bittersweet. While writing large papers may feel like the magnum opus of finals week, leaving oneself craving a summertime bliss where homework and exams feel like a fleeting memory, I also would be lying if I said I didn’t completely miss the school year. 

I used to detest change and endings specifically. You know that feeling that you get after you emotionally invested yourself into a story, only to have it end? I used to despise that feeling. More specifically, I would despise the feeling that comes afterwards — uncertainty, ambiguity, all of the above. 

I once told one of my English teachers about my reluctance towards finishing books and having to end a good story, and I remember he said that books never truly end. I thought at first that he meant that you could always reread a book, but what he was suggesting was much greater.

The thing is, while books may physically end, the stories they tell and the impact they’ve made will never rest. That is how we get the world of literary criticism, and why we analyze the same books over and over in school.

I created this column centered around the modern interpretations of books, because while I enjoy discerning interpretations and double-meanings of classic texts, I know that many students find the task to be a chore. I often hear the same questions, such as the pondering of whether or not we are reading too deeply into the text, and whether the author thought this deeply about their own work.  

These are all valid concerns, but I think the close analysis of such texts establishes an eternal beauty in literature. That is, a book’s significance after its last page is what truly makes the story special. 

Growing up, my mom would read with me before going to bed, and while the texts themselves made me fall in love with stories, it wasn’t merely the act of reading that I enjoyed. It was the association of being close to my family, and creating traditions together in which reading became something much more meaningful. 

The ending of the book isn’t the end of that story, but rather, an invitation to build on those ideas, inspire new interpretations and create connections to your life. It’s merely a matter of changing your perspective and viewing each experience as a building block to new openings. Even bad experiences are informative, and they shape us in ways that we cannot even explain.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” The stories and the people with whom we surround ourselves are integral to growing as independent people, establishing our own thoughts and actions. While I may not be able to pinpoint every last book or every single person that has influenced my life, I know that nevertheless, they have played a pivotal role into my journey from adolescence to adulthood. 

As I’ve grown older, I’ve begun to love change. I ended up primarily applying to colleges far from my hometown; not because I didn’t love it, but because I craved that feeling of excitement. The slight fear of not knowing where you’re going, but knowing that you’re going to somehow make it, is a constant force that drives me to seek out new opportunities and experiences.

When my parents came to help me move-in to college, my mom and I took a walk around the lakes. There’s this one spot on St. Mary’s that has a natural alcove, and my mom and I sat there and looked out onto the sunset on the last day we spent together before she left. I reflected on the ending of my high school self, and in a way, a part of my childhood that I would never get back. 

As the school year continued, however, I found myself returning to that spot on the lake. Sometimes I would just sit and think, and other times, I would call my parents and update them on my life. I wasn’t trying to relive that memory from August, however; I was creating new memories, writing new beginnings upon old endings.

I initially named my column’s byline SparkND to be a play on words of SparkNotes, the digital literary tool that many college students rely upon to interpret difficult texts. However, looking back, I think the word “spark” answers that initial question of why books never truly end — they are indeed sparks, and catalysts, for future discovery and discussion. 

One day, I hope to be able to fulfill my dreams and become an author, recreating this spark and love for literature that has defined my childhood. But for now, I’m grateful for the experience of sharing SparkND, which has made me fall in love with reading and writing all over again.

Elizabeth Prater is a first-year student with double majors in marketing and Program of Liberal Studies. In her free time, she manages her goldendoodle’s Instagram account (@genevieve_the_cute_dog) which has over 23K followers. She can be reached at [email protected] or @elizabethlianap on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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