"Je suis fini."
Although many years have passed since I last read or spoke French, occasionally phrases still pop in my mind in response to certain situations or remarks. Sometimes the French language simply seems to roll better off the tongue. I should be much better at French than I actually am—after five years of high school French, I probably have retained about two years’ worth of the grammar and vocabulary—but my dubious skills do not prevent the random utterances that escape from my lips. Je suis fini! I most recently mumbled with some zeal. The summer needs to draw to a close.
The thing is, I had forgotten some of the rules of French grammar. I realized after I reflexively murmured the statement that the words did not ring quite as they should. What was it? Was my use of être (the French verb “to be”) incorrect? Had I lost my ability to speak in the present perfect and past tenses? The reason “Je suis fini” did not exactly satisfy was that it did not express that I currently am finished but that I was finished for good. In French, when one employs the verb “to be” with the verb “to finish,” one expresses ultimate conclusion: one has finished for good, one has died. One is really, truly finished. Only when one employs the French verb avoir, which means “to have,” with the verb “to finish” does one convey that the cessation only holds for now. Right now, I am finished. J’ai fini. I have finished, but I may once again resume.
This summer, I am finished. J’ai fini. Not finished for good, but I have drawn things to a close for the moment. I have dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, tied up loose ends, uncovered every stone, and made good on every other cliché which essentially euphemistically expresses desire to be the hell done with something. As endings draw evercloser, the time in waiting becomes everlonger. Mentally, I have disengaged. See, see my papers with perfect penmanship? No hidden stones left—I was thorough, I promise! The exhaustion has crept in—no, perhaps not exhaustion but detachment. I direct my energy and focus elsewhere, onto the next big things: new classes, new semester, new living location, new home…Newness. Far more exciting than what is already known. Or what I am convinced I already know. The summer may have more surprises and revelations in store, but I will not receive them because I have already left. If one’s hands are not outstretched—indeed, if one’s body is hardly physically present—how can one receive a gift?
My French was not then mistaken after all. I am not finished in a “right now I have left this matter but I leave open the possibility that I may return someday” (as in the way that one may pat one’s stomach after enjoying a rather large ice cream sundae and say “I’m finished” without ever intending to convey that one is finished with ice cream sundaes forever) but I am really finished. I am dead to this summer, the chaplaincy internship. The summer is enough, enough in a way that I can and I must pronounce “Je suis fini” with intention and commitment. I do not want to return to this summer someday, to pick up hospital chaplaincy work maybe one day later in life. I do not want to live through another summer of my husband being deployed or my father undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer. I do not want to hear news reports again of record high temperatures leading to crop devastations and deadly shootings in movie theaters while I run on the treadmill in lieu of braving the scorching July sun. Je suis fini.
I am finished with this summer’s theme of sadness and loss, of opportunities cut short for fulfillment. Onto next things. Again, it rings better in French. The words coat the tongue thickly, luxuriously all the while spewing from the mouth rather quickly, connoting anticipation and excitement: Je suis prête. Allez, viens! I am ready. Let’s go!