When I was middle school age, my mom and I decided to pierce our own ears in the downstairs bathroom with sewing needles. This little anecdote was challenged at a party in my basement, so of course I had to prove I wasn’t lying, and I decided the best way to do so was to pierce a male classmate’s ear in the same way. That was crazy.
My daughter got a second hole in her ear pierced the other day and, based on my experiences, I think it’s kind of a big deal. (FYI It was done in a store without household tools.) Well, as my brain works, I started thinking about other ‘kind of big deals’ that she might, and maybe should, experience. Initially I thought of these experiences as rites of passage… until I looked up what those actually are. Getting your ear pierced is not a rite of passage in our culture, but it can be a right of passage. By that I mean, we experience a lot of things, and it’s those experiences that give us all the feels and the wherewithal to continue taking life as it comes. Some of them help us to reinvent ourselves and become more unique. Some of them humble us and help us to become more like everyone else, which then enables us to empathize and support the global community in a positive way. If there’s one thing I’ll remember from this past year, it’s that we’re all in this together. Some of these “rights of passage” feel good, and some are more like “lefts of passage” that we’d probably skip if given the choice. Some are things we choose to do, some happen by mistake. Some are gifts and some are losses delivered by other people. Some things happen because we just don’t know any better…yet. Some things just happen because life is good. And some things happen because life’s a bitch. But all of them really do help us to navigate this thing called life.
In middle school a classmate sitting behind me on the bleachers during an assembly snapped my bra. All his buddies snickered. All my girlfriends rolled their eyes. Initially I was like, “Dude. Not cool,” but I’ll be damned if I didn’t smile at him in the hallway later that day.
One summer we were vacationing in Clearwater, FL. My parents treated us with ice cream cones. As soon as I stepped off the boardwalk into the sand, a seagull flew right past my face and knocked my scoop off the cone and onto the beach. I stood there wondering why the ice cream didn’t come with a warning.
My high school sweetheart bought me a rose for our one-week anniversary. I saved it in a box for years.
In college I had to roll pennies in order to buy my next meal.
I learned to drive a manual transmission in the church parking lot when I was in middle school.
My friends and I scared the shit out of ourselves playing Bloody Mary and Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, and with a Ouija board at our sleepovers.
I shaved and frosted my own hair on a dare.
I tore up my legs learning to shave with those darn Bic razors.
I got thrown in the locker room showers in my full soccer uniform, cleats and all.
I could probably go on forever with all the crazy, random things that have happened in my life, but the point of each that I’d be trying to convey is that they happened, which means I happened. And I’m still happening. Rights or lefts, highs or lows, I’m grateful for all of them. They’ve made me a little more cynical, yet even more hopeful. I’m smarter and more empathetic. I’ve had enough experiences to know what I like and don’t like, and I can be pickier about what I want to do with one of my most valuable and fleeting gifts: time.
Oftentimes, when thinking about the angle of approach on my posts, I poll my friends and family about the topic at hand. I posed the question “What are some things, good or bad, that you think all children/people should experience, because ‘that’s life?’ I received more lefts than rights (although some are pretty similar), and I wonder why that is? Do we think more negative things need to happen in order for us to learn and become better people, people with stronger character? Or is it just that we will feel better if everyone else experiences some crappy luck? My dear friend pointed out that we can’t fully experience joy without pain, so maybe it’s okay if there’s more lefts than rights, because a few rights will still outweigh the lefts. Of course her response prompted me to immediately play Rob Base’s and D.J. E-Z Rock’s “Joy and Pain.” But I digress… So here are the messages I was sent back, and I hope you comment with your own:
The rights… 1) Winning 2) Receiving applause at the end of a performance 3) Love 4) Love at first sight 5) A first date 6) A first kiss 7) Romance 8) Someone writes you a song or poem 9) Someone buys you flowers 10) Setting a goal… and working towards achieving it 11) Being comforted 12) Being found 13) Cold pizza for breakfast 14) Being validated
The lefts… 1) Lack of provisions 2) Disappointment 3) Heartbreak 4) Loss of a love 5) Getting dumped 6) Criticism 7) Losing 8) Argument with a friend 9) Failure 10) Learning from mistakes 11) Stepping in dog shit and/or chewing gum 12) Falling on your face 13) Losing something irreplaceable, or having something stolen 14) Getting picked last 15) Getting lost 16) Having to make a choice between two things you really want 17) Something meaningful of yours gets broken 18) Being denied/being told no 19) Being scared 20) Being lonely 21) Rejection
Somewhere in between… 1) Peer pressure 2) Waiting tables 3) Slumber parties 4) Summer camp 5) DisneyWorld
So what do you think everyone needs to experience in their lives, and to what end?