It’s time to say goodbye to How I Met Your Mother. TV finales have always hit me pretty hard. I was raised in the 80s and 90s, when America went a little crazy with the power of neon colors and computer graphics and processed snack foods. We may not have done fashion or food all that well, but we did television like you wouldn’t believe. My life had a great deal of upheaval, so I found a constant that I could rely on – fiction. Books, movies, and television have been my babysitters, companions, advisors, and great loves. I learned very early that you could immerse yourself and get lost in a world that doesn’t really exist. It’s a kind of magic that adults can still practice – and appreciate – today. It is extraordinary in how completely ordinary it is.
If I had to break it down, I would say that books are my best friends. But television holds a special place in my heart, because it offered a consistency I didn’t have access to in “real life”. My favorite shows would come on regularly, every day or every week at the same time. Their problems were presented and resolved in half hour to hour long segments. You knew that something major was happening because it was shown as a Very Special Episode, complete with a helpful phone number to call at the end. The music told me when I could anticipate something good, and when I needed to prepare for something bad. In short, I had the same television experience that millions of us have had, and will continue to have.
Despite how normal this is, it still feels a little embarrassing to explain just how much television has factored into my personal timeline. I was born the same year that Cheers was. I don’t remember life before MTV. I grew up on Golden Girls and Saved by the Bell, Full House and Family Matters. I watched Friends with my friends, and My So-Called Life pretty much defined what I considered my own so-called life. That 70’s Show came on when I was in middle school, and Dawson’s Creek started during my freshman year of high school. The first year that I lived on my own, as an adult, was 2005. That’s when How I Met Your Mother appeared.
Of course I resonated with the actors before I even saw the show. Buffy started around the same time as Dawson’s Creek, and American Pie came out in my senior year of high school. My obsession with being a redhead began long before Alyson Hannigan, but she solidified the choice for me many times. I could relate to Willow and Michelle, so Lily seemed like a friend already. I grew up watching Doogie Howser, MD, and many of my high school friends were super into Rent. I knew people that knew Neil Patrick Harris, which made him feel even more real to me. (I am not name dropping – I was never even close to actually knowing him). When I consider transformative shows, I can’t exclude Freaks and Geeks. I already had a huge crush on Jason Segel as Nick, so naturally I needed to see him in this new show.
I didn’t know of Josh Radnor or Cobie Smulders, but I was receptive to them. Josh as Ted was particularly intriguing, because he was right where I was. I bet that so many of you reading this right now felt the same way! I was surprised when I read The Proffessor’s farewell, and Solo’s goodbye to the show, because they touched on the exact same feelings I was having about the show ending. If you started watching the show as a single person, there was the idea – the hope – that you would find true love by the time Ted did. Now we’re at the end, and many of us are still searching for The One.
So there’s the normal pain that comes from saying goodbye to a group of friends that you have counted on each week, and then there’s this other thing. This uncomfortable reminder that your life was supposed to be sorted out by now. You planned on finding your soulmate before Ted met The Mother, but suddenly it’s nine years later and you’re still alone. I will admit that this is, in some ways, completely devastating. How can I have walked alongside Ted for nearly a decade, with his life echoing my own so many times, but not end up at the happy ending? What the hell, universe?!
But to dwell on that is to miss the entire point of the show. It is to focus on the lesson that Ted did not learn until almost the very last episode – there is no timeline to follow. It doesn’t matter how much you try to force things to work out according to your schedule; the universe has its own plan in mind and you simply can’t rush it. This place that you’re at right now is a great place! It has all the makings of a legendary episode, and it ultimately is leading you to your own yellow umbrella. We just can’t see our own life with the happy ending series finale in mind. Ultimately all of this little stuff is both hugely important and completely irrelevant.
It’s hugely important because it shapes us into the best versions of ourselves. Would Ted be ready to meet The Mother, and have a relationship with her, had he never met Victoria? What if he had never owned those red cowboy boots, or never tried to get Robin back that one time (no, not that time, the other time…no, not that time either…oh hell, pick any time, they all prove the same point!)? All of those events, big and little, transformed Ted into the man that we have been waiting to meet for nine years – and that’s huge.
At the same time, though, the show demonstrates that all the little crap doesn’t really matter. You will find the right person when it’s the right time, and not a moment sooner. Whoever you are at that point will be the right person for whoever they are at that point. Whether it be God, destiny, or just the science of how random events can start a domino effect, a grand plan is occurring all around us. So it’s okay if you act like an idiot at the bar on St. Patrick’s Day, because it’s not the only time your soulmate will be in the same place as you, at the same time. It just has to be the right place, and the right time, for everything to come together as it should.
We can focus on how to orchestrate our love lives into what we imagine they should be, or we can enjoy the ride. We can’t, as Ted notes, logic our way into or out of love. It brings a strange sense of relief, because it takes so much of the work out of it. When you meet the one, whenever and wherever and whomever it may be, they won’t care about those things you’re insecure about. They will like your stupid leather driving gloves and long-winded stories and overbearing friends. So there’s just no point in attempting to hide all that weird, wonderful crap that makes you, you.
And there’s no point in trying to force anything, because there’s so much more at play than just your one little life. That one little life might be what brings two people together in marriage, or helps a new baby come into this world. All of these little things that each of us do are all connected in some way that is beyond what we can even fathom. I find that comforting. It’s like looking at a picture of Earth from the moon, and recognizing how tiny you are in the grand scheme of things. If so much more is at play, then I can’t manage to fuck it up. My destiny will unfold as it is supposed to, regardless of whatever I do or don’t do.
This show has been a love story for so many different types of people, which has a lot to do with why it’s so successful. It is a love story for the high school or college sweethearts that found The One early and stuck with it. It is a love story for the guy that never wanted commitment, and the girl that always thought she wasn’t cut out for all that marriage stuff. It is a love story for the woman that found her soulmate and lost him too soon. It’s a love story for the eternal optimist that is ever-hopeful, always waiting, for the day when their soulmate walks into their life. It is a love story about friends that are family and family that are friends. It is about mistakes and fate and surviving the pain because something better is sure to come about. That’s real life stuff there.
I’ve avoiding saying too much thus far about actually losing this show. That’s because it’s hard for me to write about. It’s hard for me to think about. I have lost real people in my life. I have sat with family members as they died, and I have witnessed great love and great pain. So I see the show ending with a sense of perspective. The normal thing to say right now is that a show ending doesn’t compare to a loved one dying…but I think it kinda does. It’s not exactly the same, of course, but it impacts you the same way. Your stomach drops and your heart aches and your brain hurts from trying to comprehend a future that suddenly doesn’t include someone or something that felt so very important for so long.
Like I said, TV finales have always hit me hard. For reference, consider that this one time,
in band camp in high school I saw a rerun of the Charles in Charge finale. That show was on when I was a kid, and I was never particularly attached to it. I liked it, but it wasn’t an essential part of my life. It was just something funny to watch in reruns when I couldn’t find an episode of California Dreams or Perfect Strangers. But seeing that series finale episode, where the whole family sang the show’s theme song to the main character (Charles) had me in tears. I. Was. Devastated. When it’s a show that I’m actually really into, the finale is a million times worse.
I can’t ever forget the door closing on Cheers for the last time, or hearing Kevin’s last voiceover on The Wonder Years. My heart will always hurt (in a good way) when I think of Zack and Kelly getting married in the post-finale special, or when I remember how Joey and Pacey ended up together. Ross and Rachel on Friends. Brian and Justin on Queer as Folk. Eric and Donna on That 70’s Show. Ted and The Mother. Maybe you saw these shows, maybe you didn’t. It doesn’t matter. You have your own memories burned into your brain, and they likely affect you the same way. When you hear the song that played in the background, or remember that last twist – even when you think back on a poorly made spinoff – you go back there. You go back to being five or ten or twenty one or thirty. You go back to the 80s, the 60s, or the early 2000s. And it hurts so very good.
So yes, I will be a mess on Monday night. I will cry until my head is pounding and my eyes are red, and then I will type out a farewell episode review even though my hands are shaking and I can barely see. Some might think that’s an overreaction to a show ending, but I suspect you feel the same way. If you’ve read this whole thing, it’s because at least one show has resonated with you in the same way. If that one show is How I Met Your Mother, you really understand. You also understand that after the hour has passed, life will resume. We wipe away the tears and we smile fondly at ourselves for being such sensitive humans, and then we move forward. But we take it with us as we go, because it has been with us for so long that it’s now a part of who we are.
This show has been the soundtrack to my life. It has existed both as a big part of my work, leisure time, and love life, and also as the ever-present background music. It reminds me of lazy days spent with my best friends, where we talk about everything and barely notice Ted’s antics on the screen in front of us. It reminds me of heartbroken nights, curled up with a blanket and a glass of wine and the cold comfort of Ted being lonely, too. It reminds me of time with my family, old roommates, and all of you. A million people online that know exactly how I feel…it’s just the support group we all need as How I Met Your Mother comes to an end. It still blows my mind that people actually want to read my random thoughts about this show. I am not the only weird one that obsessed over who The Mother could be, or whether Barney could drive, or how to make Stinson’s Hangover Fixer Elixir. You guys are weird like that too! And for some reason you connect with what I’m writing, and that just means the world to me.
I started my own blog in 2011, largely because I needed a place to put all of my How I Met Your Mother thoughts. I don’t quite know what to do with myself now that all the questions will be answered. The nice part, though, is that we can say goodbye in a way that’s pretty unique. With most shows, the ending occurs in real time. We know what happens up to, say, 2014, and that’s it. But HIMYM’s universe continues through 2030 and beyond. In ten years, you don’t have to wonder if Marshall and Lily would still be together. We know that they are. We’ve seen their futures, and it makes us feel like we’ve seen our own futures. Maybe that’s the magic of it.
Right now it’s Sunday night, and I don’t know how the show ends. I don’t know if it will be the perfect ending we all look back on happily, or a great disappointment. It doesn’t really matter. I will have plenty to say on it either way, but one episode can’t change what the show has been to me for nine years. Besides, it’s not goodbye – just see you later. The joy of syndication brings the gang back into my home every night, if I invite them, and it takes out the sting. Netflix and DVDs mean that I can visit them all whenever I want to. But their stories are ending, and it’s time for me to focus on my own story a little more. HIMYM has helped to shape me into the woman that I am now. That woman is pretty fricken’ awesome, and when the time is right, I will find the right one. When it happens, I will say a little thank you to Craig Thomas and Carter Bays. They taught me something that I couldn’t always find in real life – hope.