Thanks for all of your thoughts last week, friends! I always love hearing when a post resonates with you.
Something I bumped up against when I started to think about purposefully injecting novelty into my life was how to handle rituals and traditions. If you’re like me, you think a lot about them. It seems like my friends, my family members, and really, my whole generation, is hyper-focused on creating meaningful celebrations, meaningful holidays, meaningful Saturday mornings, meaningful bedtimes, meaningful birthdays, meaningful first days of school, etc., etc., etc. We want our lives to be meaningful and purposeful and joyful and memorable, and one of the best ways we’ve found to do this is through creating and upholding rituals and traditions.
And from what I’ve heard and seen and experienced, kids love this! They love boundaries and knowing what to expect and festivities of all stripes and eagerly anticipating things. (Ahem, Christmas.)
But, even good things like traditions can be taken to an extreme. It’s not that traditions or rituals are bad (most definitely not!), it’s just that I think a maxim I adhere to throughout my life is appropriate here, too: everything in moderation. Instead of worrying that my family hasn’t established a special meal for Halloween night or bought the birthday banner that will reappear with every trip around the sun, I want to embrace the fun of thinking up new ways to celebrate! I never want to lose the margin for new holiday activities, new after-school snacks, and new Easter dinners that we haven’t yet dreamed up.
One example we wrestle with: vacations. Here’s how it goes: A non-negotiable for me is going to Maine every summer. Absolutely has-to-happen, can’t-miss, no way, no how. Got it. We’ve also grown to love going to Asheville in the fall. Okay, we can make that work. Our trip to Bald Head Island over Memorial Day was amazing – we should make that a tradition, too! Okayyy, we can maybe do that. Isn’t Charleston in the spring magical? We’re within driving distance, so let’s do that every year!
Charleston-Bald Head Island-Maine-Asheville would be an amazing year of vacations, and I wouldn’t complain about it! But if we actually wanted to do those four trips every single year, we’d have very few vacation days (and dollars!) to do anything else. Over a lifetime, we’d miss out on so many other amazing destinations!
To bring it back to the perception of time we’ve been talking about: If your entire day, week, and year is already assembled for you from blocks of tradition before you even flip the page on the calendar, might your brain respond the same way it does when it meets with any boring stimuli? Shut off, say “nothing to see here?” In the pursuit of meaningful lives, I don’t want us (and by us, I really mean me) to lose the joy and importance of spontaneity. I don’t want every year to feel like a repeat of the one before, and therefore glide by almost unnoticed.
Tradition and rituals satisfy a deep craving for me, and I’m guessing for you, too. But I think it’s worth trying to strike a balance between margin for novelty and tradition, and at the same time, take the pressure off all of us to make every single moment special and meaningful. Because in the end, I think what really makes life meaningful is the people with whom we spend it, no matter what we’re doing.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, friends! Have you ever wrestled with this? Does your life lean more heavily toward tradition or novelty?