I just put down A Memory of Light, and with that, finished The Wheel of Time for my first time.
I picked up Eye of the World in 2011 if I recall correctly. It was one of those books you always saw on the higher shelves out of reach, unique and easily recognizable like a James Patterson or Robin Hobb book from glimpsing them hundreds of times, but never really thinking you'd get to them as you grew. The symbol of WoT, having 'all of the sudden' become level with my eyeline, stood out more than ever, so I booked it out from the library - starting a journey I didn't know would go on to this point. Eventually I could no longer fit the library into my lifestyle, which then kickstarted my personal collection of books.
I think back now to all the times I remember having a WoT book on or around me. A book would be in a photo, be on my table during a lecture, forgotten at a friend's house, I'd think of relationships come and gone and how whoever I was with took notice of these books, visible in the background of a shoot or in the footage, or I'd catch myself thinking of Loyal and how he carried several books in his coat pockets, as I used to carry a WoT book in my large cold weather jacket's side pockets while commuting via train to college, and eventually work.
My fear of spoilers grew exponentially with time. I'd come cross articles, videos recomendations, memes all about Wheel of Time, and then hurriedly paste them in an email draft or send to a friend via whatsapp with a #WoT tag for me to come back to when I finished. Certain songs through the years got tied to WoT in my mind, and I found myself having assembled a playlist specifically for the End that I had been saving. The song ended just as I read the last line and I was simultaneously overcome by a massive feeling of fulfillment - but also a deep sense of melancholy. "Post-book completion depression" is something I haven't had in a very, very long time.
In the last decade, many franchises have seem to gone the route of 'cutting of a dying limb'. From Star Gate to Mass Effect, from LotR/Hobbit to Games of Thrones, there were undoubtedly good things in how the endings were handled in some, but so many of them felt like they were rushed and unceremoniously shoved out the way by a studio to make space for another newer thing. Or worse, being revived only to be puppeted like a channeler who has been turned to the Shadow, to be tied down as a golden goose for a corporation or a mouthpiece for politically and ideologically possesed indivuduals. A part of me wonders whether the series being adapted will have a similar treatment and ending into either one of those disrespectful fates.
I was really afraid I would feel about Wheel of Time in the former way, and to some extent I do, as I realize that the writings and world of RJ aren't insight into a deeper truth, they aren't 'real' real and it's seen as something weird and infantile by some and people are looked down upon by those kinds of people for putting so much of yourself and your time into consuming and experiencing a fictional world. Reading, feeling, caring, yearning, celebrating these works won't pay the bills or fix the issues of the world, I get that, but I feel changed.
Being able to tap into this world over the years despite or because of what was happening in my life did something for me and I'm gratful for that. This is why I worried, why in our increasingly detached and irreverent world I was afraid that WoT would come and go - however the community has been amazing at making me feel the love and investment put into our shared world and experiences of WoT.
I find it funny how I've come to a forum/message board to talk about this, as opposed to the more modern social media dashboards, feeds and walls, because it is on forums like these where I felt connection with the wider world and fellow explorers of the fictional worlds in books, films, series and games.
I will now spend a few weeks going through all those things I saved, absorbing forum posts, combing through wiki pages and just generally seeking closure.
Until the Wheel turns and the winds of a beginning come again,