There is a phenomenon I have experienced throughout much of my life that I haven’t been self-conscious of until very recently. It is an obscure sorrow that I have become increasingly aware of — credit to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows for inspiring this kind of reflection — and I’ve begun to feel that there are probably a lot of other people who feel the same way.
There are people who love to marathon through shows, movies, speed-run games, or speed read. While they may share my experience, I feel it applies more specifically to the way I go through things. I read a lot, but I’m not particularly fast at it. My pace gets the job done, but I hardly read fast enough to finish even a short book in one sitting. I can spend even greater amounts of time on a game, or a series, where going back to the material becomes a regular routine in my life.
Regardless of the medium, the story, setting, and characters become familiar. The stronger I feel about the material I’m engaged with the more I love going back to it. In a way, it feels like I savour the experience, letting myself consider it over a longer period of time. Something inevitable always happens though, as I get closer to the end: an overwhelming desire to just stop. The more I love the material, the more affective this desire becomes.
I most recently felt this peculiar sorrow when reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, and am currently experiencing it again as I approach the end of Majora’s Mask 3D. When I can feel the ending closing in, when I know that in all likelihood I could end the experience with one more session, I feel a drive to avoid going through with it. If I don’t avoid it, then it will all be over. The novel, series, or game will be done, I will put it down and may not revisit it for a year or even years.
The feeling can be frustrating, as the idea of not finishing something can be even more upsetting than my experience coming to a close. There is a small window between hesitating to finish a story and leaving it altogether, which only makes the experience more sorrowful. I want to linger with the characters and the world just a little bit longer, but without making progress over longer and longer periods I’m just abandoning it altogether, without any closure.
Interestingly, I’ve found this can be even more noticeable with a story I’ve gone through before. I know everything that’s coming, and when I’m in the thick of it I revel in the familiarity, but this only makes the approaching conclusion all the more obvious, since I know there’s not much more left in the story’s progression.
Despite calling the experience sorrowful, I hope I continue to live my life hesitating near the end of stories. Although it means something I love is coming to an end, it also means that I was able to experience something that affected me on a deeply tangible level. That means the story will always be with me, even when I’m not currently experiencing it.