…is that it doesn’t exist.
To preface this whole discussion: recently, I’ve seen a massive universal longing for “closure” on uncomfortable and disappointing seasons of our lives among people my age. I think, on some level, we’re all always hoping that if we force just one more conversation, or if we go back just one more time, or if we have just one last life-changing epiphany, we’ll finally be able to wrap up unpleasant occurrences in our lives and leave them behind us for good. We’re all always hoping that we’re right on the verge of moving on from any given let down or heartbreak. For some reason, we all think that just one more encounter with that uncomfortable situation will somehow resolve any residing internal conflict we harbor regarding the issue, and that then, and only then, will we mentally move on from whatever has lately been the painful subject of all our emotional attention.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores one serious truth about us, as people; we’re all just walking culminations of our past experiences.
The thing about us, as people, and how we operate chronologically, is that every day we wake up just a little bit different than we were the day before. We’re now working with 24 hours of new mental material. We’re now seeing the world through a lens newly colored by the last 24 hours of our lives. We’re now drawing from 24 more hours worth of experience, and no matter what decisions are made that day, they are bound to be affected by the experiences of the previous 24 hours. Those same decisions are also, intentionally or otherwise, inevitably informed by all the experiences of all the hours we’ve ever lived. In this way, we’re constantly changing and growing and evolving- and so are our perspectives. Every experience we have is automatically and instantaneously built into our character, and thus, into our worldview.
With this in mind, the idea of closure doesn’t really make sense. The idea that we can just box up the unpleasantries of life and leave them in an abandoned attic somewhere just isn’t plausible. Even though it’s sometimes easier to ignore this fact, the truth is that for the rest of our lives, we’re going to draw understanding and perspective from all of our uncomfortable and painful and unpleasant experiences. No matter where we find ourselves standing in the days and months and years to come, we will inevitably find ourselves standing there as someone who underwent some sort of disappointment or heartbreak or general unrest. Gaining “closure” on these experiences (that is, closing them up and moving on; ceasing to be affected by them) is not something that we can really ever achieve- nor is it something that we should ever strive for.
In my experience, a search for “closure” will always lead straight to disappointment, and will leave the searcher with an unsatisfied need for control. Instead of asking, “How does this experience shape my thoughts on life and the way I live it? What can I learn here?”, an unending cry for closure screams “This situation didn’t go as planned and I refuse to accept it or learn from it until it looks exactly how I wanted it to- or at least how I expected it to. I need to understand so I can find a way to stop it from affecting me.” This way of thinking ignores the inherently transitory nature of human perspective, and doesn’t create an atmosphere for personal or interpersonal growth.
Basically, if we really want to get the most we can out of this super short, awesome, wild life, we have to stop waiting until we feel like we have a full and complete understanding of any given disappointment to live. We have to learn how to come to peace without demanding “closure,” and we have to learn how to draw from past experiences without having made total and complete sense of them. Once we learn how to honor and appreciate painful past experiences instead of demanding their absence from our present lives, it’ll be a whole lot easier to grow and transition. It’ll give us more freedom to shift and change and widen our perspectives, and it will help us glean everything we can from everything we experience. (Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb” comes to mind here.)
In short: closure is overrated. Don’t worry if you can’t find it, and don’t waste your valuable time chasing it. Instead, spend time culminating a personal honesty and openness, and learn how to make peace without necessitating full understanding.