more clapping, more growth!

I have a love/hate relationship with milestones.

When I was little, milestones were pretty much the most spectacular thing on the planet.  Before I even knew what I was doing, people were celebrating my accomplishments. I crawled! I cut a tooth! I pooped on the potty! All pretty phenomenal stuff, I know, but none of which I can really take credit for. It was all stuff that just happened as a matter of course, but man, people were clapping for me and giving me stickers and making me feel like I was the greatest thing on earth for tying my own shoes!

I suppose there’s so much fanfare because each of these moments is an indicator of growth and the acknowledgement of progress encourages more.

Rites of passage, the crossing of thresholds, the reaching of milestones… when we are little, these all just sort of happen to us and then one day we wake up and, all of a sudden, no one is celebrating every little thing that we do. Spotlight off, curtain drawn.

Unless it’s your wedding day, or a graduation, the ribbon-cutting for your own business, or the birth of your baby, there’s not a whole lot of clapping going on once you become an adult. And, sure, for some of us, our progress is less visible the older we get. It’s no surprise that I hear no one cheering for my gray hair. Or that no one’s throwing a party for their best friend’s ability to balance a full-time job, 3 kids, graduate school and a giant house or calling all their friends to crow about their son’s decision to quit the job that is making him miserable or sending out a happy newsletter about their own divorce. For the most part, except for on your birthday, the applause have stopped.

I get that. It would be weird and contrived and kind of annoying if we all ran around with pompoms to cheer each other on through all of life’s challenges.  But if we are so game to celebrate the reaching of milestones, why are we equally game to question and judge and doubt each other and ourselves for not reaching them?

I’ve avoided a few of the milestones deemed important in our culture. I haven’t gotten married.  I’m pushing 40 and don’t have any children. I traded in the gift registry for questions about why? why not? when? who? how come? I ask myself those questions, too. Why haven’t I? What does it all mean? If I never reach these milestones is that the equivalent, now, of never having learned to poop on the potty? Have I somehow missed the boat? Or, worse yet…failed?

I’m sure each of us has lingering questions about the choices we make in our lives… am I doing the right thing? am I making a mistake? will I regret this? am I going to be a big, fat loser and die lonely?

Perhaps the most difficult thresholds to cross are the choices that we make every single day about how we will live our lives. It is these choices that are the proof of our growth. Our conscious, well-thought out, intentional decisions are the proof that we are growing and questioning and changing and challenging ourselves; that we are making progress.

And even though we make these choices for ourselves and our growth may not mean anything to anyone else and we don’t need a pat on the back for everything that we do….

It feels damn good to be celebrated. It feels amazing to be validated. I know because I got celebrated this week by my family and friends and I feel like I could conquer the world right now.

And it feels great to validate and celebrate others. I know because I have the great fortune to get to do this every single day in my work and it makes me happy.

I’m pretty sure it feels incredible to celebrate oneself. I’m still figuring that one out…

Maybe that will be my next milestone.

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