Off the beat: A sense of an ending

annie.gerlach

Like any stubborn and angst-ridden young adult, I’ve always held a soft spot in my heart for The Catcher in the Rye.

Well, the soft spot is for Holden Caulfield. To put it bluntly, Holden is my soulmate. He is a sad and selfish first world problem. Whenever I feel down, I flip open my dog-eared book to a random page and start reading. Holden is such a fuck-up that he always makes me feel better.

But there’s one scene that I relate to more than any other.

Toward the beginning of the novel, we first meet Holden as he’s freezing his ass off atop a hill at his prep school. He’s too hipster to go to the football game unfolding below him. He’s failing out of school, so he’s not coming back after winter break. And he’s up there on that hill because he’s trying to get a goodbye out of the place.

That’s the scene right there. Holden says something to the effect that he always needs to get a sense of a goodbye, no matter where he is or how he feels about the place he’s leaving. It doesn’t take him a long time to get his goodbye. He remembers something random that puts him at peace, and he’s sold.

Holden gets me. I’m the same exact way. Always, without fail, I feel the need to get a goodbye out of something. I want some concrete sense of ending. I cannot stand the idea that I’m missing out on something grand.

The last time this incessant need surfaced was over the summer. I forget the exact date, but it was the Daily Cal’s last official night in our sixth-floor office in Eshleman Hall. The entire night is a little hazy — and not for a substance-related reason. Don’t you ever get those memories where everything’s a little fuzzed around the edges because it’s all a rapid-fire jumble of laughter and excitement?

But even when you see the fun times, you can’t ignore the fault lines. Because hovering over the entire night like the fog across the Bay during the sunset was the nagging, crushing weight of an ending.

That to me is a death sentence. That albatross around my neck ensures that I won’t be fully present in a moment — I will be bogged down by the constant reminder that whatever I’m doing is my final opportunity to do it.

Yeah, I suppose I’m a fatalist.

So there I was, freezing my ass off on the top-floor balcony of Eshleman — which we all collectively call the roof — simultaneously cracking up at a friend’s joke and dying a bit inside. What was I doing wrong? What grand action could I take to ensure my sense of an ending?

The short answer to both those questions is: nothing. There was nothing I could have done differently. Because how do you say goodbye to something immense like Eshleman? How do you say goodbye to a feeling?

My sister didn’t understand why we were all sad to move from Eshleman to our spankin’-new office on Northside. She also thought the old sixth-floor space was cluttered. Which it was. But it’s very easy to overlook things when you’re in love.

And I was madly in love with Eshleman. For two years it was my home. I fell in love the instant I walked toward the living time capsule that was the sports desk corner. We had papers tacked three-deep to the walls. We had a desk that harbored the names of editors past, a tangible testament to the dedication that sustained the paper. We were also within strolling distance to Chipotle. That was the main selling point.

Now we’re miles from Chipotle and the withdrawals are intense. Now, the walls of the new office are practically bare — there’s no history to give me comfort whenever the stress of the job overwhelms me. (Fortunately, through the use of my dad’s tool kit, we were able to salvage the sports desk with the signatures.)

Chuck Palahniuk has a quote where he basically says that, no matter how careful you are, you will always feel like you missed out on something, like you failed to experience it all. You rushed when you should have soaked it all in. You failed, and you can’t take it back.

That totally sucks.

But there’s a part two to Palahniuk’s quote. And it’s not necessarily a silver lining — it’s more a promise, a mark of Cain. “Get used to that feeling,” he says. That’s how you entire life will be.

I couldn’t hang onto Eshleman. I will always feel like there was something —anything — I could have done to get a better goodbye.

I can’t hang on to everything. I don’t want to, either. I never want to settle down, because inherently that implies settling. I can’t have it both ways. If I’m always moving on, then I’m always saying goodbye.

But I just want to have my say in how it goes.

Annie Gerlach is the fall 2012 sports editor. Contact her at [email protected] .