We are now about to begin the fourth week of the semester at Bluffton, and so routines are well underway. I remember once in probably grade five or six I was writing a composition in French about my Thanksgiving and I talked about celebrating with our family friends, several of whom have now passed away. Rituals change and traditions shift. But that doesn’t mean I want them to.
Some of my favourite rituals in fact occur during Christmas. For many years, we have had Christmas dinner with family but this year they decided to enjoy the sun so we celebrated with others. And then boxing day. We all know that this is the best part of Christmas. It involves ham, which is superior to turkey, and some of my most beloved family friends (and some others. You know who you are, reading this blog while working in international development). According to Victor Turner, a scholar of religion, rituals bring us into a liminal moment outside of ordinary time and space. He doesn’t discuss how distressing it is to deviate from them, how some new things like board games are fine, but other new things, like people not being there, are not. For example, this year we spread out getting together with these beloved people throughout the vacation, but I hope that we never deviate from this tradition again.
The school year also begins with rituals. I have some activities I do with my students each first day of school, and always make them do an activity before I hand out the syllabus. This ritual is somewhat routine for me, but sets the tone for the class. And as much as I love the rituals of Christmas, I need routines. I have a workout plan so that by the end of the semester I will get closer to my lifting goals (squat my bodyweight, deadlift double). I also plan out my semester in terms of how much writing I will do. I have a five-year plan, and semester goals, which I then break down into weekly goals. I also have a fill-in-the-blank schedule for how many hours I write each day and how they compare to my daily writing goals. These rituals help me develop a good routine. (Sidebar: it took me a very short time to do all this planning. This means I have officially kicked all remaining effects of my concussion in their sorry behind). This semester when I meet my writing, teaching or lifting goals I’m going to give myself gold stars.