So I did both the greatest and worst thing for myself last week – I re-watched Avatar the Last Airbender. This show was first airing while I was in middle school and high school, and even back then it was immensely special to me. There was something extraordinary about it, even if I couldn’t put my finger on just why I loved the show. Was it all the shades of gray? The heavy topics? Oh, no wait. That’s why I still love it to this day. Nah, back then I loved it for the world-traveling adventure aspect. I do love me some globe-trotting.
For anyone who hasn’t watched Avatar either because they were witness to that-movie-which-shall-not-be-named or because it was a cartoon on Nickelodeon or they thought they were too old for that kind of thing – you’re not. It’s a very adult story, and the finale is almost…spiritual. Which is why it’s so hard to watch it. I am always excited to get to the end, even more so now that I know what happens, oddly enough. I mean I couldn’t wait to find out how things went down before, but now I go back to revisit those feelings. And those feelings can be hard to revisit. Like I said, it can be a very adult story. There are a large number of heavy topics addressed right at the beginning and they just keep building on each other.
But I’m going to try to keep from getting on an Avatar tangent, especially since this isn’t the tale that’s left me feeling a bit adrift in the best possible way when I finished it. The Hunger Games trilogy did the same thing, for example. Harry Potter had similar feelings but that was more because it was seven books that I’d spent years with coming to an end than it was crash streaming an entire story in a week (or less). Heck, one time I wrote a fanfic that really took a toll on my emotions and that needed some detoxing after finishing. Fanfiction! And these are just the ones that got to me – I’m sure you have your own that leave you staring at the ceiling for a good ten minutes before you can continue on with your own non-that life.
Conclusions are hard. Not the writing of them, though that is infamously difficult as well. They can be hard to cope with for the consumer no matter how satisfying they are. The end of a great story can be both welcomed and dreaded. These characters you love are going off into their sunset. Sometimes there will be sequels, or comic book continuations (thank you creators of Avatar!), but oftentimes we’re just left there with the end of the story.
How do we deal?
(Keep in mind this is my advice based on what works for me – you are your own person so if this isn’t your style then you do you.)
Well, you might start by staring at the ceiling.
No, seriously. If your initial feeling at the end of a show or book is to just lay there and stare at the ceiling or the wall or otherwise just stop functioning for a minute – do that. Let it sink in. Mull in those emotions. Embrace all the feels for good and for bad.
You might not necessarily stare off into space. When I finished the Hunger Games I got up and did the dishes. I had to do something with my hands after that. But I didn’t speak. I didn’t play music or put on a movie or tv show. I just did dishes in silence and let all the confusion and anger and sadness and happiness and longing and…all the things I both expected and didn’t expect.
Basically, take some time without interacting with other media to milk it all up.
A good second step might be to reach out to others who have also reached this point.
Yes, I highly recommend waiting at least a few minutes before popping onto Twitter or Reddit and freaking out about it. Now I am talking about the things that have hit you the deepest. Sure maybe you just binged on Friends and completed the whole ten seasons – good for you, that’s a pretty amazing feat! – but that last shot of the door was just an ‘eh, ok’ moment. That’s what it was for me. I finished Friends and I was fine. It was a nice show but it wasn’t one that dug deep into my spirit. Or maybe you were like a super fan and that door left you crying and empty.
If you’re the me type in this scenario, then step one might not be vital, but if you’re like the second type – or the me with Avatar – then diving right into socializing could mess with the appreciation of the feels. For me, diving in too quickly can become almost abrasive and overwhelming.
But after an appropriate amount of time has passed, talking about it with others might be just what the doctor ordered. After all, there are probably loads of other fans who are feeling the same way you are. If it’s been years since the show came out it might be harder to find current places to talk about it, but strong fandoms still exist for the weirdest things. You never know what you might find. And, if all else fails, at least you can blast your feelings to the echo-chamber that is Twitter.
Make some Fanstuffs
If you’re the type, write something or draw something or knit something in honor of the story you’ve finished. If not, maybe indulge in something someone else made. Pretty much every story that is out there has fanart and fanfiction at a minimum. The more popular (or the more diverse the fandom) the more other stuff you might have access to in order to satisfy the new hole in your soul.
Seek out something more!
I mentioned a few points up that many of these things have something else that ties in. Sometimes that something else isn’t worth the gum stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe (stupid Shyamalan butchering a good story with his stupid movie) but other times you might find something great. Avatar the Last Airbender got a truly epic sequel series in the Legend of Korra. I personally didn’t like it as much, but that’s not because it wasn’t great. I just liked the dynamics and story of the original better. The sequel is just as if not more heavy than the first though. Like, they get into some really questionable territory there. Plus Korrasami (the little ship that could between the two leading ladies of the show) paved the way for more queer characters in cartoons. Gotta love it for that alone.
Unfortunately strong sequels are hard to find. I mean, just look at the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The first movie was lots of fun. It was a sharp decline downhill after that. So you might have to settle for finding something else – and there in lies the hardest part. Things like the Hunger Games have easy alternatives, considering dystopias are a popular topic right now. Things like, oh, I dunno, Lost? That was popular right? That might be harder to replace. Friends didn’t have a hard impact on me because there’s tons of friends-in-the-big-city shows. I swear it has it’s own genre. Avatar has a deep impact because it’s really the only show of its kind. Without the comics I don’t know where I’d be.
Probably writing fanfiction. Well, probably not, since I’m not that into writing fanfics anymore, but in high school I probably would have churned out a ton of fanfics.
My roommate has watched the entirety of How I Met Your Mother at least three or four times in the last year. It kind of worries me sometimes. At the very least it’s a constant annoyance considering said roommate always sings along with the opening (and said roommate is pretty much completely tone deaf).
I don’t necessarily encourage this since it can get you stuck in one place. You gotta find something else at some point. But maybe re-watching it once in short order might be valid – especially if it was a twisty-turny show with a lot of late reveals and you’re going back to see what you missed before. And, of course, there’s also the option to re-watch years later and start this whole process all over again. Like I did. Ugh why did I do that.
(JK I know why I did it. The four-part finale gets me every time and I love that set-adrift feeling I have as it pans up to the final credits.)
Watch/read something else.
This hearkens a bit to the ‘seek out something more’ but I want to encourage you to maybe go in a completely different direction, especially if you need to be able to function and functionality has been eluding you a bit. Case in point: After I finish this I’m going to go crash-stream some Good Mythical Morning. It’s a YouTube show where two fun guys do and talk about some weird topics. They once ate a bacon ice cream bar. They’ve also tested out eating things like bark and bricks. They’ve also talked about everything from supervolcanos to haunting to weirdest houses to the weirdest nail art.
They’ve basically the exact opposite of a show that I’ve invested my emotions into. It’s lighthearted fun that keeps things moving along.
If YouTube isn’t your jam, maybe pick up the funnies (or google them, since newspapers aren’t common these days). Something that can be gobbled up in quick succession and that can be put down fairly easily. It’ll create a break between the high-investment thing you just finished and the next high-investment thing you might want to get into.
Make something completely new.
This is primarily geared towards the creative types since they’re the ones who regularly write and draw and knit and whatever. But it also applies to anyone with a passion. I had a professor in college who wrote her doctorate dissertation on something she felt passionate about: James Bond. I didn’t actually read it, but she told us about how she’d definitely gotten some side-eye from people before they actually gave it a chance. I mean, she did get her doctorate so obviously someone found it doctorate-worthy.
I used a short story that I love (The Yellow Wallpaper – it’s ten pages, you have no excuse to not read it since it’s public domain, so go read it) to discuss something that concerns me: Solitary Confinement. It’s torture, plain and simple, and prisons use it as though it were a time out. They’ll throw just about anyone into solitary, regardless of if they’re dangerous or not. The Yellow Wallpaper comes from a time when women would be given the same treatment as, well, a medical treatment for ‘hysteria.’ I’m a big learn from our past kind of person. They made the mistakes for us, why do we have to keep repeating them? Anyway. I used the confusing feelings I had after finishing that short story (and the even more mushed up feelings I had after our class discussion on it) to turn it into a passionate plea. A non-fiction writing.
I also hope to take all the feelings I have for programs like Avatar and turn them into a passionate book. Hopefully a book series, but I’d be happy to just start with one book.
This is the ultimate form of dealing with conclusions because it takes a lot of work, but it also opens up the doors for other people who are seeking more. There might be someone out there looking for the exact thing you might offer them. Someone out there might need you like you needed the story you just finished. If you have it in you then go out and create.
You really never know who you might inspire.