Ok. We all have heard of and possibly read, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: and It’s All Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson. I haven’t read it, but I get the premise. I’m guessing the title told me too much for me to invest time in reading it. After all, it was a directive. Ok, won’t sweat it…done. Maybe if the title was “How Not to Sweat the Small Stuff” that would have motivated me to read it. The book tells of how to not let little things in life drive us crazy. Life is stressful enough. Why add to our stresses? We should aim to lighten the load. So my question is this: Why are we now celebrating nearly every damn thing?
This stream of though is motivated by the end of school season and the many “stepping up” ceremonies happening. What? You don’t know what a “stepping up ceremony” is? If you’re bright (and you must be because you are reading my blog) then by the time you finish this sentence, you’ve either figured it out via context or you’ve “googled it”. And now you know. Ha! Joke ‘s on you if you relied on Google to answer this apparently cultural question for you. Google is a great search engine, but it isn’t smart in the way that you need it to be to answer very specific questions. You can ask Siri or Alexa or some other random AI entity you rely on. I don’t trust them and I don’t use them, so I have no idea how they might answer you. If you’ve got a FOC (friend of color) who grew up “ghetto adjacent”, ask them. (I’ll wait.) They didn’t answer or understand your text? Ok…I’ll tell you. A “stepping up ceremony” is a celebration of a student completing one grade successfully and “stepping up” to the next grade. This is different (usually) from a true graduation. Graduations come with diplomas and a transition to another school. And they happen at milestone grades 5th (to middle school or Jr. High), 8th (to High School) and 12th (to college/university/military/job/walk the Earth).
Graduations I get. Well, mostly. The only graduations worth celebrating, in my opinion, are High School graduation and any college/advanced degree/trade school graduations that may follow. That marks one’s entry into adulthood. The expectation worth celebrating is that you are now equipped to take care of yourself. Yayy! Upon graduation from High School a person is usually 18 and a legal adult. All of the excitement of being an adult commences with graduation from High School. But more and more, it seems like some of the “adulting” that used to come hand in hand with graduation actually arrives years before: getting a car, formal dances that look more like (and cost more like) weddings, over-the-top sweet 16 parties, quinceañeras, bar and bat mitvahs. Few have cotillions anymore, but I’ll include those as well. Ok…graduations…go ahead celebrate those. Some students struggle and work very hard to make it to those milestones. But ONE school year? No.
A typical school year is 180 days. Some of those days are half days or the tricky “early dismissal” which schools count as a full day even though students don’t stay from 8-3. Then there are the days a student was ill, snow days, fog days (they exist), heat advisory days (they exist too…some schools don’t have air conditioning and are too hot for conducive learning. This is a new thing. I remember sweating away 20% of my body weight in classrooms in Aug/Sept and then again in May/June.) So, maybe…maybe a kid with perfect attendance goes to school for 180 days. Yayy! Do we need to celebrate that a kid has accomplished this…with a party? Gifts, food, music, all the party accoutrements happen at “stepping up ceremonies”. Parents take photos. Parents congratulate themselves on social media. “We did it.” Really? We? Ok, yes. I get it because I used to teach. I know what a well invested parent goes through. I also know you do half of the homework and projects, so yeah…go ahead you’ve earned it about as much as the student has.
But is this really worth celebrating? I don’t know. Maybe in extenuating circumstances. Maybe Jeffrey had a really hard year wherein he really struggled. But don’t throw him a party. Make him a special dinner. Tell him you’re proud of him. Tell him to keep up the good work. You know…stuff you were probably telling him all school year to see him through. I fear that when we celebrate every little accomplishment, it takes the shine off of them. And it ramps up the expectations for celebrating the big things. If it is all “big stuff” there is no “small stuff”. So we shouldn’t sweat any of it. Unless it is REALLY BIG STUFF.
But no. We are having multiple showers/parties for one event: engagement shower/party, bridal shower, bachelor/bachelorette party, rehearsal party, then the wedding and reception and sometimes a honeymoon send off party (yes…this is a thing!). Baby shower, Gender reveal, Push gifts, naming ceremony, Baptism/Bris/Christening and then the over-the-top first birthday. It is too much. Too much sweating stuff and celebrating stuff. We can’t stop and smell the roses because we are so distracted into smelling EVERYTHING. (Not to mention the costs involved in all of this celebrating. But that is a blog for another day.)
What about our lives has become so sad and low that we feel the need to celebrate so much? We’ve gone from a trend of not “sweating” to over “sweating”. Are we celebrating to ignore the things to which we should be paying attention? I don’t know. I don’t have answers, just a lot of questions. I am not a celebratory person. I bet you’ve figured that out by now. I acknowledge. If something great happens, I’ll raise a glass, maybe even send a card. But I am not getting dressed up, hair done, nails done, etc., unless this is going to be a life changing event worth celebrating. “Stepping up” from third grade to fourth grade doesn’t warrant my effort nor a gift.