American society has become more lax on the milestones of life. Maybe it’s because we’ve stopped doing things in such set order: become a teenager, get your license, graduate a few times, drink, marry, children, anniversary milestones, eventually death. (Throw in communion, confirmation, or baptism if you’re religion, and divorce for at least half of us, and I think that’s most of the bases.)
But even those are fading – they’re not things done at the same time anymore, no mass ritual of everyone going through it, unless you’ve got the religion side helping along. So the important milestones of our lives pass, often unacknowledged. I think this is a pity; those milestones are important. They’re often liminal places where change is happening at a rapid place, where your identity is thrown open and loose, and you come through the other side a very changed person. The very time we should be most celebrating who you are and are becoming, and we often let it pass with nary a peep.
A friend of mine is in that liminal place right now, a milestone even more foreign to most than the religious ones I mentioned above. He’s separating from the military. He is a combat veteran who has served his country with pride for nearly a decade. He doesn’t agree with much of the crap he’s seen and dealt with these last few years, but is a damn good soldier – and his loyalty to the service and its ideals cannot be questioned, even though his voice could be added to the many who have suffered at the hands of their own medical hospitals and system. He already served his last shift, and today was his final debriefing. Tuesday he turns in ID and other things, and then walks off that base for the last scheduled time.
To the liminal, KM, and the new places that wait.