14 September 2015

What Comes Next--My Rite of Passage

If you've talked to me anytime in the last 2 months you'll probably know that it's now leaving time. Leaving the UK. Leaving friends and family. Leaving the life I've built for myself. Really, leaving HOME. And this is a hard thing.

Naturally everyone asks, 'What's next?' To which I typically say, 'No clue. Your guess is as good as mine,' all while a warm wash of inadequacy floods my soul for not having a more socially acceptable response or life plan. Needless to say, I've been looking for ways to stop these shame gremlins from attacking me every time I get asked this question, because they were starting to suffocate and paralyze me into procrastination and complacency.

So like any good anthropologist, I decided to make this transitional phase of my life a bit easier to accept by creating a Rite of Passage for myself. Wikipedia actually has a really great entry on an overview of what I mean by this:
"Rite of passage is a celebration of the passage which occurs when an individual leaves one group to enter another. It involves a significant change of status in society."
The ethnographer Arnold van Gennep helped bring this term into modern day language and terms of reference, and I've found his theories/observations on this topic to be largely accurate in my life. So I'm going to use his ideas as terms of reference to articulate my current train of thought.

There are 3 phases to rites of passage: separation, liminality and incorporation.

In the first phase, people withdraw from their current status and prepare to move from one place or status to another. "The first phase (of separation) comprises symbolic behavior signifying the detachment of the individual or group ... from an earlier fixed point in the social structure." There is often a detachment or "cutting away" from the former self in this phase, which is signified in symbolic actions and rituals. For example, the cutting of the hair for a person who has just joined the army. He or she is "cutting away" the former self: the civilian. 
The transition (liminal) phase is the period between states, during which one has left one place or state but has not yet entered or joined the next. "The attributes of liminality or of liminal personae ("threshold people") are necessarily ambiguous."
Having completed the rite and assumed their "new" identity, one re-enters society with one's new status. Re-incorporation is characterized by elaborate rituals and ceremonies, like debutant balls and college graduation, and by outward symbols of new ties: thus "in rites of incorporation there is widespread use of the 'sacred bond', the 'sacred cord', the knot, and of analogous forms such as the belt, the ring, the bracelet and the crown."
So how does this all apply to me right now?

Tomorrow evening I'm getting on a plane to leave the UK by myself. I happen to be traveling to Barcelona, but in this discussion the destination is relatively inconsequential. The salient bit of this step is that I'm cutting myself away from the life and home I've built for myself in the UK these past 2 years. While I haven't cut my hair or performed any other symbolic act (that I've realised), I do feel like flying to a separate country by myself for a week is a pretty effective means of separation.

From Barcelona I will fly to Rome, where I am meeting up with my mom and stepdad, as well as my two housemates from the last couple years. This will effectively end my Separation phase and begin my Liminal phase because I am rejoining people I know and love, but in a new, neutral and temporary context, where I am free from commitment to being anything other than my nomadic self.

Not gonna lie... I have big plans for this Liminal phase of mine. A European Extravaganza with my Mom and Bob, to be exact. Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Scotland, Lake District, Preston Temple, Peak District, Lichfield, Birmingham, London and finally flying out of Manchester to Las Vegas at the end of October. And yet, I have no plans at all. Once I get back to the states I will spend awhile applying for jobs, all the while traveling around visiting loved ones I haven't seen for awhile. Then it's the holidays. And then I'm becoming an aunt for the second time so I'll probably go out to Indiana for a bit.

I know to most people that ambiguous and ambitious plan sounds like I've just thrown off any hope or desire to have any sort of responsibility. But in fact, it is the opposite. It is precisely BECAUSE I'm so keen on having a successful, independent, self-sufficient adult life that I must allow myself this transitional time to weigh all my options and opportunities and make the best choice as to what comes next.
Liminality... is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual's liminal stage, participants "stand at the threshold" between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.
Since living in England, I have grown and changed the way I understand and frame my identity. However, this framework might not be best suited to that of a responsible, independent, self sufficient adult living in the US. Or wherever it is I might end up next. For me, this is where most of the ambiguity and struggle comes in... re-orienting myself to life in America and establishing who I want to be in this new context and stage of life. This type of soul-searching and soul-defining takes time.
During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt. The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.
So as painfully uncertain as it is for me, or as disparagingly flaky as it sounds to others, I'm going to give myself this time to practice patience and transition into Careerdom. Though I have goals and dreams, I have no idea what the future holds. This period of my life is a complete dissolution of order, but hopefully that means that I'll subsequently be more humble, more malleable into what the Lord wants me to be, and more open to new possibilities and experiences that He has in store for me. And at the end of it all, I'm really looking forward to my future incorporation back into society.

But until then, give me a break. I'm transitioning here. 

1 comment:

  1. Yes you are and I can't wait to see how your life evolves. See you in a week.