Rites of passage move us from one stage of life to the next. Our middle child celebrated one this week: high school graduation. As we sat in the auditorium looking at all the shiny, radiant faces, I considered how much we learn through rites of passage.
Graduation: A Rite of Passage
We document graduation as a rite of passage in TV, movies, books, social media, and our life stories. True, it’s a rite many of us experience. It’s also a common event with a visual iconography with which we immediately identify. But what’s so special about graduation?
I think we value graduation as an inflection point, a time where we can clearly see a “before” and “after.” And who doesn’t love tidy “before and afters?” I do!
“Possibility” remains embedded in the DNA of this rite of passage. We get hooked by the change involved in realising our potential.
Graduation shows us TRANSITION writ large. Transitions birth us anew. Rebirth gives us a chance to recreate – to fix a mistake, to test a theory. Who doesn’t enjoy starting fresh, like the first day of school, the front bookend to graduation? Opening the new page of a book. The smell of ink. New pencil cases. All of it tied to transition, saying goodbye to the old and welcoming the new.
Change and Choice
Rites of passage indicate times of change. We create ceremony around them – rituals – to reflect their importance to us and to indicate to others, “Hey, this is important. Pay attention!”
As humans, we instinctively want to grow. We evolve through public rites of passage like graduation and private ones (grieving death is an example of a private rite of passage). Growth occurs naturally in these contexts. Knowing we have choices in what happens next makes understanding the purpose of transition points easier.
Finally, let’s address fear, which inevitably comes up when we change – how we move forward when we’re scared about what’s next.
Choose Love over Fear
We move forward by choosing love over fear. Decide to practise the attributes of love such as courage and compassion instead of succumbing to fear of the unknown, the unproven.
You do it by knowing you don’t need to figure out everything right now. You only need to take the next step. That’s it. It’s a lot less scary knowing you only need to take one step instead of ten, isn’t it?
Growth happens at the place of transition between comfortable and uncomfortable. The edge.
Our biggest block to change is fear. That’s why I say choose love.
Forks and Knives
Remember you always have choices. Be a fork not a knife. If you start down one path (knife) and it doesn’t work out, choose another (fork). Fear, personified by our saboteurs, encourages binary thinking. Love offers many paths. Take comfort knowing you can’t go wrong when you have many avenues to choose from.
Consider rites of passage in your own life. Reflect on who you are and how far you’ve come. Welcome possibility grounded in the knowledge that you’ve mastered the unknown before so you can do it again.