In a recent post, I write my lament about a game coming to an end. What I did not note in that post is that I lingered in that game long after my action in it was done, not just to distill out major notes from it (because I mean to play again, and in that same game-world if not with that very character), but to hold onto the magic of it just a little bit longer. And I was able to do that in some ways; there was a lovely question-and-answer exchange as the game wound down, and I appreciate the comments those left who told me that my part in the game made their play better. I have been more accustomed to receiving negative comment than positive (and I acknowledge that I have had many negative remarks coming), so to have learned that I have helped people enjoy themselves is a rare treat, and one I treasure. (Obviously, since I talk about it when it happens.)
I often do such things, hanging onto events as long as I can. When I have gone to conferences in the past, for example, I have usually been among the last to leave, staying on-site after the event has concluded, my footsteps echoing hollowly in the conference site. (This has been particularly true for me in my attendance at the International Congress on Medieval Studies; the event runs Thursday through Sunday, and I have typically not flown out until Monday morning. I’ve gotten to see a fair number of movies as a result, but still…) And attending the conferences themselves represent something of a hanging-on for me, since I know that I am not going to be a full-time member of academe at any point. Hell, I remember staying on the campus of my high school after my last bit of contest there and walking across the quiet golf course under the light of a full moon on a cloudless night–alone, the last to leave at nearly the last time I had to leave.
That I do so is a result of my fear of missing out on things. I am usually among the first to be on site for events, if not the first, and I know that I am prone to tiring before things are complete–but the ends of things are among the most fun parts, or so I am told. All of the interesting things happen as last call approaches, and I rarely make it so far into the night. But what usually happens is that I am left with an unsatisfying denouement; the climax happens, the action falls, and the resolution is that I am alone or nearly so as things end not with a bang but with a dwindling to nothing. I become witness to the attenuated ends of things, ends otherwise unmarked and whose comings, though heralded and known, are not valued.
It becomes hard not to be depressed by such things, especially since I can rarely if ever make the easy answer–leave earlier–happen for myself. But I am trying to do better. This year, for example, I’ll only be staying at the Congress for a couple of days, rather than the most-of-a-week I’ve done in the past. I can hope that it will help me to go out on a high note, Holst’s “Mars” rather than “Uranus.”