the liminal state

In Anthropology, we talked a lot about liminal states. In-between times if you will, when you’re not quite one thing nor the other. Often associated with specific ages or life experiences. We discussed a lot of the rituals associated with going from childhood to adulthood- bar mitzvahs, quinceaneras and the like.

A conversation with a friend’s wonderful mother helped me to recognize the liminal states that pop up in one’s own life. Mrs. B’s example was travel. I’d been sharing with her my fear of flying- anticipating an (eesh!) fourteen and a half hour flight to Asia. She gave me an unexpected way to think about those hours…

Flying, she said, is a time when you can’t do much else. You’re not at one place or another, you can’t get chores done, you can’t talk on the phone (slight tangent: PLEASE LET’S KEEP IT SO NO ONE CAN TALK ON THE PHONE!).

So, that time when you’re up in the air is time that you can devote to that transition, that liminal state between one place (home) and another (adventure!). It’s a time to clear your thoughts and build up your energy.

I’ve thought about liminal states a lot recently. I’m making big transitions in my own life (moving out of my childhood home, applying to graduate school, making a life in a new state, starting a new job just a few weeks ago, and of course starting this new blog!). I’ve grown particularly appreciative of the somehow perfectly timed four hour drive between North Carolina (new home) and Northern Virginia (family). It’s a pretty straight shot- essentially just taking two major highways- and has some lovely scenic spots with lakes and things. I listen to music (bluegrass when I’m lucky, Christmas stuff any time between October and January, NPR when I can pick it up, and the occasional random surfing between Montel Jordan and Merle Haggard). I reflect on the previous weeks. I think about my family, and how much I love them. I think about my new life, and how much I feel I’ve grown.

In my heart of hearts, I’d love to have a magical portal in my room that takes me to my childhood home, when I’m sick and sad and want to snuggle the crap out of my cat. And yet, barring such a technological development, I find myself grateful for the not-quite-anywhere state I inhabit in my car rides.


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