Scrolling through social media today I was struck by something that was both beautifully moving and sad at the same time. Surprisingly this touching moment came from none other than pioneering skateboarding legend and extreme sports fans’ favorite dad, Tony Hawk. No, this post wasn’t another one of his charming stories of fans’ lack of recognition or asking random skateboarders to do kickflips. Instead, the video he shared was one of him determined, as he tried again and again before finally succeeding, landing a 540 aerial spin in a half pipe for the last time.
After he successfully lands this difficult trick—one he could undoubtedly perform much easier in his youth—we see him fall to his knees in relief for finally succeeding in his goal, but also in grief for accepting that he will never perform this virtuoso maneuver again. When something is part of your life for so long, saying goodbye is hard. But what about all those things we grew up with that never experienced that same sense of closure?
It’s not too often that Reddit offers up posts that demand deep introspection, but one post on r/showerthoughts has stuck with me since I first read it:
“One day each of us went outside to play with our friends for the last time, and none of us knew it.”
This isn’t limited to childhood, but I wonder if part of our strong ties with nostalgia are simply because we were never afforded an opportunity to realize we would never experience something again. From ordinary and mundane tasks like dialing your childhood phone number, chatting with friends on AOL Instant Messenger, or renting a video at Blockbuster to everyday occurrences that ended up being significant like riding bikes in the neighborhood with your crew, there was always an end, a finality. Did you realize it at the time? Probably not.
Like every senior in high school I had a love/hate relationship with school. Would I rather be out of school than in? Sure. But as I sat in my final class on the final day in the final five minutes before the last bell rang, I got emotional. As my other friends were jubilant at never having to step foot in the building again, my eyes filled with tears—not for the end of school, but the realization that this was it. My daily routine would never be the same. All those peripheral friends I saw five days a week? I realized in that last five minutes that I would never see most of them again. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to be graduating and advancing to the next stage of my life, but embracing that finality was difficult…and necessary.
What everyday life event did you never get to say goodbye to? Playing with your toys? Taking one last look at those posters that adorned your teenage bedroom? Giving your friend one last hug before you never see them again?
Maybe what we’re chasing isn’t nostalgia, but closure. We may not all be Tony Hawk realizing that age has its limits, but we can all take a cue from him by reminding ourselves that each day isn’t only an opportunity to achieve greatness and suck the marrow out of life, but to acknowledge when something has run its course. Take time to enjoy and embrace what’s important to you while you still can in case you have to let it go.