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Why Saying Goodbye To Teenage Icons Makes Us So Sad

12/29/2016 06:29 EST | Updated 12/29/2016 10:51 EST
Dylan Martinez / Reuters
Singer George Michael performs at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness, at Wembley Stadium, in London Britain April 20, 1992. Michael died on December 25, 2016. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/Files

His greatest hits on repeat this past Christmas night, George Michael sang me back to my youth, and as I lay eyes wide, staring at the ceiling, I was once again sprawled out on my twin bed, walls plastered with supermodels of the '90s where countless hours were spent daydreaming about boys and school, and contemplating the social devastation of a 10 p.m. curfew.

The passing of childhood and adolescent idols seems to stir up memories that might otherwise stay forgotten; wrapped up in our adult lives, those vague recollections have a tendency to fade into a blur of Kodak moments and occasionally recounted tales.

As the music played on, I recalled memories of part time jobs, and holding hands, and the all-consuming angst of adolescence. I smiled at the memory of Keds and Dirty Dancing (the movie, not actually dancing, but imagining how I might, should Patrick Swayze show up to ask).

david bowie tribute candles

Candles, flowers and personal notes are placed as a memorial to musician David Bowie on his Hollywood Walk of Fame star on Jan. 12, 2016, in Hollywood, California. (Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

I remembered the feeling of being up in my room, contemplating life from a place that was safe, where I felt taken care of without really realizing the magnitude of what that meant, where the sometimes harsh reality of the world could be kept at bay by goodnight kisses and warm protective hugs.

What is it about the loss of childhood figures and teenage icons that seems to rock us to our core? It struck me that these memories from our past, brought up by the untimely passing of our idols, finds us transported back to a place and time before all of the real, hard to process sadness was let in; a time before grab em by the pussy, before nightclub shootings, and school shootings, and so many shootings.

Nostalgia brings us back to an existence of relative innocence, where we got up, ate a milky bowl of cereal, and rode our bikes til the streetlights came on and we got called home for dinner. We remember a past where a song, not hours and hours of expensive therapy could help heal a broken heart.

Even in the midst of the sadness and the heartbreak and the harsh realization that the world can at times seem incredibly unfair, there is still hope.

We remember a time where we still believed in an infinite goodness, an absolute division between good and evil, and a world where our good guys inevitably came out on top.

Nostalgia brought on by the passing of childhood heroes recalls a limited reality, our existence before we learnt that even the good guys can end up tired and defeated, while the villains ride off victorious, jeering into the sunset.

With every childhood icon that passes we are compelled to look back, and are reminded more and more of how much our reality has changed.

We miss the days where you made a plan to meet and you kept it because it was just what you did.

prince pop star death

Prince performs during a tour stop in Denver at McNichols Arena July, 3, 1986. (Photo: John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

We miss the days where to the best of our knowledge the polar ice caps were not melting at an alarming rate, where garment factories were not collapsing, and where people all around that world were not dying, CUZ TEACHER THERE ARE THINGS THAT I DON'T WANT TO LEARN.

But even in the midst of the sadness and the heartbreak and the harsh realization that the world can at times seem incredibly unfair, there is still hope. Albeit in moments like these where yet another figure from our youth is taken all too soon we feel grief and loss, but there is ALSO HOPE.

Because despite growing from children to adults and learning and losing and grieving, we have also been blessed with the ability to know love as only those that are grown can.

carrie fisher

Actress Debbie Reynolds poses backstage with actress Carrie Fisher (R) at the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, California Jan. 25, 2015. Reynolds passed away days after Fisher. (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)

We have been blessed with the capacity to know love for one another, for our children, for ourselves, for the planet, to know a love stronger than the feelings we felt for our Grade 9 crush, a love that in its most powerful moments defies gravity and time and place.

In the wisdom of our adulthood it is this all-encompassing emotion that drives us and guides us, that molds us into the brilliant and beautiful individuals we continue to become.

And though we may, at times like these, mourn the simplicity of childhood, we have grown to be blessed with intelligence and integrity and drive and passion, so that even in the face of unfairness and inequality, we as adults can pick ourselves up from a place of despair, and continue to fight for what we believe in, in a way that would make those very same childhood heroes proud.

To George and Carrie and Prince and Bowie and all of the many who have left us this year, the music and the magic lives on inside us all.

If nostalgia makes as yearn for a simpler existence, perhaps it is worthwhile to put down our phones, step away from our screens, to let go of our multitasking upon multitasking and simply make a date to meet a friend, and keep it.

If the harshness of the world at times fills us with sadness, let's make it our intention to do everything we can to FILL OUR WORLD WITH LOVE.

Let us keep that place of childhood innocence alive in our hearts, and let our words and our actions guide us back to an existence that feels just as good. As we say goodbye to yet another familiar face, and we ache once again with sadness and the tug of memories past, let us take solace in looking forward and moving on with the strength of a lifetime of love and the wisdom summed up by these eternal words:

BUT TODAY THE WAY I PLAY THE GAME HAS GOT TO CHANGE. OH YEAH. NOW I'M GONNA GET MYSELF HAPPY.

To George and Carrie and Prince and Bowie and all of the many who have left us this year, the music and the magic lives on inside us all. Your gifts will never be forgotten, and our childhood selves thank you from the bottom of our grown-up beating hearts.

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