“Seek from every moment its unique novelty and do not prepare your joys.”
It can ruin the best of experiences and enhance the worst. If something does not live up to your expectations, chances are you will be disappointed – even if the end result is something you would have absolutely adored if you weren’t expecting it.
There has been a lot of talk about the final episode of How I Met Your Mother this week and most of it, as far as I have heard, has been negative. To me, this all comes down to expectation.
Now, I know that many people want happy endings in their fiction, and I can respect that – those of you who know me well should be aware that I do not fall into that category, however. We all want stories that make us feel good. For some, that means following the stories of those lucky few who get to live their dreams, conquer hardships, defeat evil, win the love of their favorite person and so on and so forth with a happily ever after. This shows us that it does happen, occasionally (even if only in fiction). For others, it means following the stories of those who struggle against the world and fail, perhaps spectacularly so: those who lose their loved ones, suffer defeat at the hands of their enemies, fight a battle they know they can’t possibly win but go through with it anyway. This shows us that we don’t have it so bad after all, and that people can persevere even in the face of the toughest odds. Even if it kills them. Most people probably want a bit of both, but more of the former. Most people probably expect that the fictional characters will get their rewards at the end – but is this a good thing?
Those of you who do not wish to read spoilers about the resolution of the show should skip the next two paragraphs.
Still with me? Good. In How I Met Your Mother, we never really get the happy ending – none of the characters got their ‘happily ever after’. Even Marshall and Lily, who arguably were the closest to living their dream, were bound to compromise and take turns promoting their respective careers. The ‘Mother’ we have waited nine years to meet gets sick and dies before we can really connect to her, leaving Ted alone with their two children. The wedding we spent an entire season following ends in a quick divorce that completely eliminates all the personal growth Barney has experienced over the years, when he turns into an even worse womanizer than before after losing the woman he loves – until he accidentally becomes a father and casts away his life of chasing women. Robin gets her globetrotting career only at the expense of her marriage, and drifts apart from all of her previous friends, only to end up back in Manhattan alone with five dogs. In the end, an almost reluctant Ted follows the advice of his children and makes a surprise visit to Robin where he holds up the symbol of his efforts to win her love – the blue french horn.
Like the children say, the story was never about Ted and Tracy – it was always about Ted and Robin. However, we get no real reason to believe that they will really work together this time around – we don’t even get a hint about whether they get back together or not. The show ends with just as much uncertainty and hope and vulnerable romantic sentiment as it began. What started out as a lighthearted fun comedy show about trying to find ‘the One’ has over the years been full of dark, thought provoking realities of love and life and death. The show has never given us reason to believe in ‘happily ever after’ – on the contrary it has shown us a long string of intertwining bad relationships. The only promise of ‘happily ever after’ has been the title and the knowledge that Ted would eventually meet ‘the Mother’ – but Ted and his children knew from episode one that she was dead and gone. The hope we were given was a lie all along.
Or was it?
We expected the show to deliver our personal view of what the ending ‘should be’, but instead it gave us something else. It gave us something truly beautiful. It showed us that we can get what we want ; that we can live the dream – for awhile. It showed us that all things have a beginning and an end, and that we should cherish those things while we have them. It showed us to never stop believing in change and love and second chances, even when the odds are against us.
This is the lesson I take away from the show, and from my own life, really: Hope for your dreams to come true and work for them to come true, but do not expect them to. Learn to cherish what you have, while you have it, and accept that everything that has a beginning has an end. Never give up on your dreams, but do not let them blind you to the here and now.
Remember to live your life as it is, while pursuing the life you truly want.
- Read – The Book Thief; Markus Zusak
- Watch – Prelude to a Kiss; Norman René
- Listen – I Believe; Christina Perri