Everything in life cycles. In college, as an environmental conservation student, we talked about weather, population, and food cycles. When I was in real estate we talked about sales cycles. Humans have life cycles.
It seems to me that we talk about and address our cycles as younger people, and talk less about the cycles as we get older. I see these cycles representing our transitions through life. Transitions are to be celebrated — across the board — for them to be meaningful.
I heard someone talk about the rite of passage his twin boys were about to undertake in their transition into their teens. How exciting! That’s not as commonly done today, it seems to me, as it was in days gone by and in some cultures. Maybe our teens would have an easier time with growing up if they had goals for their rites of passage, and transition more smoothly into their next phase of life.
Our cycle takes us from youngsters to teens to young adults to adults to mid-life and finally on to elders. Each cycle change sees us learning new ways of being and thinking. We go from being at the top of our game in our previous cycle to a newbie in our new cycle. A rite of passage introduces us to the new cycle in a glorious, often challenging, way. What a way to mark our introduction to that new cycle.
As I listened to this man talk about his sons’ upcoming rights of passage, I wondered what rites we have for later transitions, taking us along the cycle of cycles. Well, there’s graduating to being a young adult that comes with various possible rites like a new job, moving away from home, or backpacking across Europe. We graduate to being an adult by having a family and rising up the business ladder. There the clear transitions stop. The previous transitions may not be as distinct, neat, and tidy as I laid out, but they tend to be there in some form.
But what about from adult to mid-life and then on to elder (some prefer the term older person)? I’m unclear how we have transitioned to mid-life; was it that crisis with a new sports care or younger mate? The transition to elder used to be the gold watch at retirement. Not anymore. Neither of those seems like something to be proud of or profound.
That leaves us kind of slipping from one cycle of life to another without a ceremony or challenge. There’s not conducive to a memorable event or a welcoming change. How can we mark our changes when there isn’t a rite of passage? How can we look forward to the next cycle and transition if there’s no celebration?
Maybe that’s why it seems getting old feels hard. We don’t celebrate later cycles and transitions. Celebrations always add joy. Looking forward to change puts pep in your step and a sense of excitement and anticipation in your heart and mindset.
I’d like to suggest we all create our own rites of passage as we grow older. Create celebrations, challenges, and ways of marking our transitions. That would make the cycles of life smoother and sweeter.