All cultures have rituals that mark the stages of life: birth, coming-of-age, marriage, birth again and death. No one ever promised that the shift from one stage to another would be easy, would not sometimes involve dragging you kicking and screaming onward with the passage of time in your life. Maybe that’s why these rituals exist, to celebrate change and make it a little less scary.
People are less scared when they’re surrounded by friends and family. Never mind that you just turned 16 and your body is a raging mass of hormones doing terrifying things you’ve never done before (armpit hair? Eww). Never mind that you’re about to enter a legally and socially binding contract with one person (you hope forever) and create a life with them. Never mind that a screaming, wriggling tiny human has just appeared in your arms wholly dependent on you for food and security. No, never mind.
Because you get to be surrounded by people who care enough to support you and offer hand-me-down advice and kitschy statuettes and less-than-adorable baby clothes. These are the big changes, the life-affirming steps that everyone seems convinced is in the right direction.
But there are other changes too, quiet ones. Steps that aren’t quite on the beaten path.
Sometimes change isn’t celebrated, it’s questioned.
- ‘Are you sure this is wise?’
- ‘Why fix it if it isn’t broken?’
- ‘I just don’t think he’s right for you’.
Or it’s condemned.
- ‘You’re not the person I thought you were’
- ‘He’s just going to take advantage of you’
- ‘Abortion is murder’
But all types of change are surrounded by swirling insecurities (I’m gaining weight and body odour! What if we get divorced? How do I know what her cries mean?). It’s just that one set of choices gets a gold star from society while another set gets swept out of the way like broken china.
But not today. Today I’d like to celebrate our off-kilter decisions, the choices your instincts whispered were right despite your mother’s voice yelling the complete opposite. So raise your glass if you are wrong. . . in the right way.
Here’s to divorce parties and starving artists, pro-choice options and falling in love with the ‘wrong person’*. Here’s to starting over (and over, and over). To marriage-less, love-filled partnerships; to childlessness by choice (and not by choice *hugs*). To careers that fill you with passion and purpose. To the lonely, often painful, steps to self-healing. Here’s to walking away, and running toward something wonderful (or something that could be wonderful – you’ll find out when you get there. The point is you’re running).
Your choice might not be celebrated, but it is loved and supported. Just like you.
*Not the abusive person, not the person you think can be saved, not the addict either. The other wrong person.