We say goodbye, Ted says hello

By Karsten Burgstahler

Warning: Spoilers from Monday’s “How I Met Your Mother” finale ahead…

Readers, I’m going to tell you an incredible story. The story of how I met “How I Met Your Mother.”

Well, it’s really not that incredible. After finishing my first year of college and beginning to think about what life would be like with a degree, I was looking for a TV show to watch that wasn’t going to get canceled, and my good friend suggested “How I Met Your Mother.”


I didn’t really know any of the actors on the show beyond Jason Segel, and it didn’t seem that appealing. But I gave it a shot and watched “Moving Day,” the season two episode where Ted and Robin decide to move in together. And just like Ted was hooked on Tiffany, and Scooter was hooked on Lily, I was hooked on “Your Mother.”

At the time, the show seemed like a great sitcom with characters I actually cared about — quite a rarity on television these days. I binge-watched and got through six seasons in three weeks, and never had such an emotional stake in a television program.

The show had a format no one had tried before. Creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas made it clear from the beginning that the story would be told by an unreliable narrator with an agenda. There was a reason everything happened, and the show quickly built a mythology — something rarely seen among sitcoms. The cult of “How I Met Your Mother” was built around slap bets, MacLaren’s pub and challenges accepted. Just like Ted and Robin had their own secret code, we, as fans, had a secret code.

Monday night the show rolled out the final secrets.

Here’s where the spoilers come in.

Barney and Robin, whose wedding the writers have teased the entire season, were divorced in the first ten minutes. Barney attempted a “Perfect Month” and ended up actually becoming someone’s daddy. And the mother, whose name is Tracy? She’s dead. The theories even actress Cristin Milioti denied were true.

It was about five gut punches in 42 minutes.


End of Spoilers.

But no matter how shocking the finale was to fans, it was ultimately beautiful because the writers stuck to their guns. Giving everyone a happy ending wasn’t a plausible option — “How I Met Your Mother” has never been about living in a fantasy world. It got quite dark several times, never really cutting Ted a break.

Yet even in those dark times the show had a ray of light peeking through, bright as Tracy’s yellow umbrella. It was always optimistic, even when times got tough.

I certainly didn’t make the connection three years ago, when it seemed like I would have the shelter of college forever. Life in the real world seemed so far away. So it was about three weeks ago that it became clear to me why I was so moved by “How I Met Your Mother” back then, and why it’s still so important in my life now. Why at any given time I have 10 episodes my DVR just automatically records.

Just six weeks from graduation, I have no idea where life will take me next. Jobs in journalism aren’t the easiest to come by. I’m willing to move anywhere to get one, meaning I’ve sent out applications across the country. In as little as two months I could be moving to a town I know little about, moving out of the organized education stage of my life. You only take about four of those leaps in your life cycle. And if you’re one of the five leads on “Mother,” you literally take one of those jumps from rooftop to rooftop.

That episode, “The Leap,” seems so important to me now. “Mother” has always been about facing these changes, whether it’s a new job, starting a family or realizing mortality, with the utmost positivity. Ted never gave up hope, even after he was left at the altar.

It seems silly to take after a television show so much. But “How I Met Your Mother” speaks to my generation as encouragement to never fear what’s next. That’s why letting go now, with graduation looming, seems so hard to do.

But I will take the leap and I won’t fear it. Because I’ll always have Ted, Barney, Robin, Marshall, Lily and that pineapple in my memory.

I’m going to make my next step legen — wait for it, and I hope you’re not lactose intolerant because the next part is — dary.