After We’re Gone

Most of us watch movies to escape life. The popcorn in our laps, the dim lights fraying reality. It’s a way to pretend the outside world isn’t still swirling on.

As the plot unfolds, we cling to these characters. Invested in their wellbeing, their dreams, their adversities, they become our triumphs, our loss.

I think about some of my favorite movies. I think about their endings, and how I am left with this feeling of hope. They beat the odds or they fall in love.

One such movie I recently rewatched is ‘Before We Go.’ Chris Evans, well known for his Captain America role, plays a forlorn musician pining over an ex-girlfriend. He ends up having a chance encounter with a women in a train station, someone seemingly in her own narrative struggle. These two people, in the span of 12 hours, connect in a way most never will. Their lives interweave, empathy building, emotions stirring.

In the final scene, they must say good-bye. It tears at your heart. They are in love with other people, yet somehow gave away pieces of their heart to each other.

“Thank her for showing you that you can love more than one person in this life.”

And as she leaves on her train (without giving it away), there is a foreshadowing that their story isn’t over. They will meet again.

As an audience, we eat this up. We get excited for them. But, in real life, it’s not always that happy ending. They may never meet again.

It’s the same with movies like The Holiday and 28 Hotel Rooms. You are left on that very last page of what you wish could be, but may never work out. Yet we still root on it anyway. We want it to work.

And I think it should be okay to do in our lives.

I’m a romantic, so of course I fall into the category of dreamer, idealist. Who smells the flowers. Who dances in the rain. Who wears their heart on their sleeve. Who asks you what your favorite color is and leaves you little notes on your bedside table. Who believes there is a way to save the world.

We love hard. We fall hard, too. We struggle with the after. Because we never want it to end. We don’t want to bulldoze the bliss that has been constructed.

Nevertheless, there are things in life that won’t work out. Love won’t be reciprocated. We’ll fall on our face. People will let us down, never call, or cut us out of their plot. It feels awful, like a dagger to the chest. But, life comes in chapters. We don’t have to stay tabbed on the one that broke our heart. Hearts mend. And you can love more than one person in this life.

You can love more than one place, too. To feel at home in someone’s arms is one thing, but to be cradled inside a city that understands the light in you is just as beautiful.

So be the romantic. Fall on your gorgeous face. Give pieces of your heart to people, places, and possibilities even if they don’t turn into a happy ending. Go for broke. We too often shut down our gut feelings in fear of where it may take us — off some beaten path society says isn’t okay to pursue. Yet those end up being the paths with our happy ending. We may get there with mud on our shoes, scrapes on our cheeks, a starved stomach, and drenched clothing from downpours with no parka, but we’ll have a big, fat smile on our faces knowing we never gave up.

Never, ever give up.

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