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On Initiation

May 30, 2011

It seems I've finally resurfaced -- as I noted some time ago, I've been retraining into a new career for the last two years, and I've finally finished the program.  Previously, my education was in the Humanities; now, I've trained into Social Service Work, which was the experience of a lifetime.  I graduated this past Friday afternoon with distinction -- a hard-won accomplishment of which I am very proud, having maintained not only an A average but consistent A or A+ marks in every single class over two years.

We live in a culture where we just don't talk much about initiation rituals.  Often, we think of them as something those other people do, those people who don't quite make sense to us.  That saddens me.  What is the process of education and graduation but an initiation?  We enter as neophytes, struggle and strive, experience an enormous transformation, and come out the other end renewed and celebrated.

As I prepared for the big day, I allowed myself some time to consider initiation as it applies in this context.  I've told anyone who'd listen that the SSW program was far more of a challenge for me than my university education, or even my graduate work.  Possibly because I tend to live in my head, university studies came easily to me.  I don't remember struggling with the work or with the workload.  Conversely, the last two years -- and especially this year -- have devoured my life in a way I never could have expected.

I remember reading, when I was far too young to fully comprehend it, that initiation has two components: the transformation and the celebration.  We hold initiation rituals to acknowledge the process of transformation undergone by the candidate at some point previous.  It's embarrassing how long it took me to turn that information into deep knowledge.  I never experienced that kind of transformation in the well-intentioned but horrifically ill-conceived circle my friends and I formed in our early twenties, and I certainly never experienced it in university.  I never walked through fire, never found myself falling or buried or drowning.  It may be accurate to call that circle an ordeal, even a transformative one, but it's not the kind of transformative ordeal that takes place in pursuit of a goal.  This community college program brought me to a deeper understanding of myths like the Descent of Inanna, sometimes leaving me with the distinct impression that I'd been stripped and hung on a hook to rot.  As rewarding and informative as it was, it was also hard.  I often felt hollow, and then something would come along to fill me up again.

And so it was that this past Friday, I got dressed up -- I even wore a white dress! -- had my hair braided into a pentacle in honour of the core that sustains me, put on the supplicant's robe, took part in the procession, crossed the stage to be recognized and decorated, and felt enormous pride at the accomplishments I had shared with these people who had become so enmeshed in my life.  I spent the last hours of the day in the company of loved ones who have offered their support in so many ways.  But for the absence of certain fellow-travelers and supportive loved ones, it was a perfect day, and an initiation I'll remember.  May all of our initiations bring us such joy!

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*hug* Initiation has TWO parts? Why have I not heard that before? So many holes in my learning I need to address. Anywho, sorry I wasn't there (very bad headspace day). It's on my short list of things I genuinely regret.



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