Rite of Passage

Jul 10, 2006
I signed the lease on my first apartment on Saturday, and the check went out in the mail today. It's the biggest financial commitment I've ever made (my parents being kind enough to pay for college), the most ambitious step I've taken in my life so far, quite possibly the most exciting thing I've ever done. And terrifying, too -- I'm moving to a new city where I don't yet have a job and to live with a friend I know and love but have never actually lived with before. I'll have a home of my own to care for, my own dishes to wash, my own carpets to vacuum, my own light bulbs to change. We move in on Lugnasadh, which seems appropriate, as this will be the fruition of my summer's work.

One of the weird things about anthropological training, especially the post-modern kind advocated by a couple of my professors, is that you begin to see your own life in ethnographic terms. What I have just experienced is called a rite of passage, an instance of changing roles from one stage of life to another. Graduation is the classic example, but graduation ceremonies have always seemed like more of a nuisance to me than anything else. College is really the rite of passage there; graduation is just where everybody else acknowledges that. This, though -- this was important on its own merits. One signature and the state of my life changed. I am no longer a student or a twentysomething bum living with my parents. I am now a Young Professional. (Or, given my still-unemployed status, a Young Bohemian.)

In Paganism, a rite is a ritual, an act of magic and devotion, causing change in the individual and possibly the wider world as well. And the lease-signing, really, it was that too. It was hardly the formal sort of occasion I'd vaguely come to expect from people throwing the term "lease-signing" around; my roommate and I had met up to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and we sat down with the papers after lunch in the mall's food court, reading through all the details and dating and initialling like mad for half an hour. When we were done, we sat in silence, staring at the lease, mentally adjusting our bank balances, processing the decision we had finally made. And then we pretty much exploded in excitement and had to go take a circuit around the mall before the movie started.

A couple of days later the excitement has worn down, and I'm starting to add up the costs of all the other things that need done, and getting anxious about packing and moving and no longer having a permanent address in the house I grew up in, but that's life, isn't it? We change ourselves and we keep moving, even when it gets a little terrifying in the in-between spaces.


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1 comment:

Sojourner said...

Graduation is the classic example, but graduation ceremonies have always seemed like more of a nuisance to me than anything else. College is really the rite of passage there; graduation is just where everybody else acknowledges that.

I understand what you mean about graduations ceremonies being a pain. I don't like them myself. However, going through the ceremony is part of the rite of passage because the people in your life are able to acknowledge your accomplishments. I think of rites of passage as being a community event, not just a personal event.

Good post.