True confession: I wasn’t planning on walking in Saturday’s graduation ceremony. Yes, I’d completed a Master’s degree, but it’d taken me eight years to get there – so, unlike the traditional two or three year approach, I didn’t have an affiliation to a specific group of people, let alone to a particular place. 24 classes had been spread out between three main campuses, at a number of secondary sites for intensive, week-long courses, and at the far end of our dining room table for various online and IDL courses.
I was just glad to be done, and really, by this point all I wanted was the official piece of paper for our make-shift office wall.
But a lack of allegiance doesn’t mean that I didn’t read (uh, most of…) the coursework, write the papers, take the tests, and interact and think and question and dialogue with the subject matter at hand, against my own core beliefs.
So when my friend Becki told me that her husband, Scott, who’d been on the 10 year plan, was also graduating in June, she encouraged me to to jump on the Rite of Passage ship and just walk.
What if I don’t know anyone? (otherwise known as what if no one cheers for me? in more regular, not-so-covert circles of thinking).
Somehow Becki picked up on my question’s secret meaning, and promised that she’d scream her head off for me.
And I’m so glad I did.
Because even though I only knew a handful of graduates, there emerged a single moment that sealed the journey and all its significance for me: I was hooded.
At a high school or college (…or pre-school, or 6th grade, or 8th grade, or…) graduation, your name is called, and you walk across the stage. Perhaps you shake a hand or two, or you give the celebratory “I can’t believe they’re passing me – Suckas!” fist pump or, in one last, merciful teacher’s pet sort of move, with tears in your eyes, you give your principal a final farewell hug.
To each his or her own.
But when you become a Master, it’s like the whole world stops for you, just for one five-second blip. Your name is called, and with hood draped upon your left arm, you walk up to a set of tenured professors and hand them the sacred fabric.
Turn around! they hiss, smiles mechanically plastered on all three of our faces.
Each taking a side, while the room sits in silence, they drape the hood over your neck. They fluff it and pat it and shape it, until there’s this perfectly molded symbol of achievement draped over your shoulders, slinking down your back.
And it was there, in that split-second, before the pair pats your back, signaling that it’s your time to walk across the stage, that I had my moment.
A journey confirmed.
A celebration made real.
An achievement acknowledged.
I’d crossed the threshold – and this, this was worth taking the time to pause and reflect and recognize.
A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s transition from one status to another. And in my opinion, life is full of little and big, everyday and occasional rite of passage moments – adolescence, as one writer put it, is one large rite of passage, in which through the newfound freedom of puberty, all those first-time experiences are christened, one after another after another. Marriage itself is a rite of passage, but then again, so is that first time you set off the smoke alarm while cooking dinner, or that moment when you realize you throw a damn good party together.
Let’s do this again.
I love thinking about the fact that Jesus, entrenched in his own culture, participated in various rites of passages: circumcision and Bar Mitzvah as a child, along with yearly observances of various Jewish holidays.
With our own son, each day seems to bring about a new moment in the journey that’s worth celebrating. He sat up on his own, he stood up for the first time, he didn’t spit up his peas – toot, toot! Toot toot! He’s a week old (and we didn’t kill him); he’s 11 months old, and how’d this happen already? – regardless, huzzah, huzzah!
When their son, Quinn, was born, my friends Ryan and Rachell celebrated his birthday every single month. I mean, we’re talking a best of the best, triple-layer cake from the local bakery that they’d adorn with candles and an accompanying “Happy monthbirthday to you…” – at first I thought it was a little extreme, but then I realized: this matters. Quinn making it another month in this crazy, messed up world? It matters. Celebrating in the everyday the reality of his blessed Quinn-ness? That matters too.
This is how I want to live life. I want to celebrate life with the community around me, be it with the HBH and Cancan, or a room full of party-people, or an audience that I hold little affiliation to. Because this celebration matters, and it builds solidarity, and it’s important to lift a glass to the journey.
And all of that, it counts.
What about you? What’s a rite of passage to you?