On traditions: those worth keeping and those worth shedding

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As I’ve been going through planning this wedding I’ve been thinking a lot about tradition. My mother pushed for some traditional things that I didn’t think was needed, the double envelopes for the invites and printed cocktail napkins. I however found myself pushing for it in some other ways, the monogrammed thank you notes that are just so classic and southern, the traditional wedding vows, taking his last name. But, I also wanted some modern things as well. I’m not walking down the aisle to a traditional bridal march, but rather a beautiful piano song with no wedding ties. Our rehearsal dinner will be casual and have a taco food truck.

The mix of new and old and traditional and non-traditional got me thinking about how we view and use traditions in our everyday life. Obviously we all have family traditions that we love and value, but when it comes to societal traditions we seem to be trying to shed them. Traditional suddenly seems stuffy. Instead of classic, it’s being seen as dated. It’s a turn of events that I’ve hated seeing. Not because I think all traditions are worth keeping, but because I think there’s still value in a lot of them.

There is something really cultural about your traditions that link you to not only your location but also to your ancestors. It ties us to where we come from and how we were raised. It highlights our pride in our home and our people and I don’t think that should ever be lost. I don’t think taking pride in your heritage or culture demeans any others, but rather adds to the diversity that makes the world special.

I also believe that traditions often exist for a reason. Maybe not so much the monogrammed thank you notes, but the traditional family structure that keeps children supported by two parents. The structure that makes it so if one parent falls the other one will be there still. The structure that allows children to take care of their parents like they took care of us once they age. Keeping to these traditional structures, no matter how loosely the modern family does, can help keep children out of trouble and help fight off debt. There have been multiple studies on the fact that these systems work, so maybe it’s best not to throw them completely out the window.

Is there room for growth within tradition? Of course, there is a lot of room for growth. Traditionally women couldn’t own property or vote, those are traditions we should have promptly saw out the door. There are a lot of traditions that aren’t needed anymore, we simply grew out of them, advanced passed them, and some of them weren’t needed to begin with. But that doesn’t mean that we should throw them all out.

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We’re losing major support systems: let’s help bring them back.

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You know the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well, it takes a village to do a lot of things. It takes a village to support health mental health. It takes a village to overcome debilitating illness. It takes a village to do almost anything difficult, because humans are herd animals and we aren’t meant to go at it alone. I’ve touched on this before, talking about how isolation feeds depression and ways to defeat loneliness in your existing social circle, but I didn’t touch on the kinds of support systems that are rapidly falling apart. It’s like this for everyone, and as these communities become weaker, people are feeling the results. We haven’t found good replacements for these systems and it’s because we weren’t meant to.

Family

Family is supposed to be the biggest building blocks in our support system. As family life deteriorates with broken homes, problems with addiction, and divorce, our idea of what family is has taken a hit. It’s no longer viewed by everyone as a goal worth having. Family relationships are being replaced with friendships, and while everyone needs amazing friends, the two aren’t supposed to be the same.

It’s not to say that if you have a broken family you are all out of luck, or that your friend family doesn’t count as a huge part of your support system, it’s simply to say that the need for a family hasn’t been completely filled because friendships and family relationships are different. It’s not simply over for those without one though, it’s a need that can be filled. You can start your own family unit, or marry into a family that calms you as your own. Some have found that even though their immediate family is lost they can still be welcomed by extended family. Some have found that in reaching back out to siblings and grandparents relationships can be reformed.

The point isn’t that it’s impossible to do without a family, it’s that having a family is a support system that we need to give our kids, and that we should uphold ours if at all possible.

Neighborhood relations

Neighborhood relations still exist, some people have great ones, but some of us don’t know the people we live beside. We haven’t made efforts to connect. Nobody notices when we go out of town for a week. There isn’t a support system there because we only wave and say hello. It might not be the biggest deal if you live with others, after all, your roommates can fill that void, but for people my age who live alone, not knowing your neighbors is a big loss.

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Out of the Office: Adventuring.

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Last weekend I spent a day adventuring with my dad on the old family farm. It was really magical- but I think that was more spending the day with my dad. He had some really awesome stories about the place. I have been there before, but not since I was really little. Those rocks I’m sitting on? I have had my picture there before. I need to find the other one when I’m home over break.

I think I often overlook how blessed I am to have the family I do. Both my parents love me and would do anything for me. I know that’s what parents are supposed to be like, but so many people are deprived the love and support I’m given day after day, mistake after mistake. Every now and then a day adventuring with my dad or exploring with my mom will remind me. I’m lucky. Really damn lucky.