When I was younger, I was really into old Western movies for no particular reason. From classics like A Fistful of Dollars to more recent entires like No Country for Old Men, I was always drawn to the genre. Maybe it’s the tumbleweeds, or the desolate landscape, or the eerie soundtracks, but I found Westerns simply incredibly compelling.
One of the hallmarks of many of these classic Westerns is the ending. Typically, in many of these films, the final shot features the protagonist riding off into the sunset, having successfully overcame their adversaries or or otherwise resolved their conflicts. Seeing that shot at the end of each of these movies was reassuring in a way. It felt like everything was right with the world when a gunslinger acknowledged their success, while simultaneously deciding it was time to move on to a new challenge.
That same feeling has dominated much of my thinking lately. Between finishing the Minor in Writing and graduating from Michigan, it feels as if I, too, have overcame my own obstacles. Like many of those fictional characters, I feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and pride in my success. Yet, I also feel a strong sense of sadness and unhappiness. Being the one actually riding into the sunset, I now realize the pain that accompanies leaving or finishing something of real value. Deep down, I ache for the story to go on, for another capstone project to come along, for another opportunity to develop more as a writer at Michigan.
It’s why these past few weeks have been so difficult. I want to keep going–to keep pushing, to take another course, to create another piece, to do anything to prevent that solitary sun from finally setting and from the screen fading to black.
At the risk of assuming another person’s emotional state, I think some of those characters felt the same way. Or, at least, I like to think they do. Really, I struggle to believe that these tough-guy gunslingers can all move on without feeling a twinge of sadness at leaving an entire place behind, regardless of how tantalizingly exciting the future may be. It’s this specific act–the moving-on–that I think reveals much about a person’s character.
For me, my difficulty in moving-on shows how much I’ve enjoyed my time at Michigan and, more broadly, how resistant to change I am. I’ve always struggled to adapt to change, and finishing the Minor and graduating represent massive changes to my life–to all of our lives. Yet, I’m still hopeful that this will ultimately be a positive change. I may be being shoved into the sunset, rather than going voluntarily, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t enjoy it.
Into the sunset we go.