I recently read your post on Thought Catalog, and it got me thinking about some changes that do need to be made in the way we celebrate marriage, children, workplace success and personal goals.
For starters, you’re right about the need to celebrate goal-achieving individuals. You say, “I want to have a shower for a woman when she backpacks on her own through Asia, gets a promotion, or lands a dream job,” and I agree! We should do this for that guy who hiked along the abandoned part of the Great Wall of China too. We should do this for anyone who manages to keep all of their New Year’s resolutions too. We as a society have become all too self-centered, and we should make more effort to celebrate the achievements of others. Heck, we should have a “You Beat Cancer” shower! Anyone who does something exceptional (and good, mind you, serial killers are exceptions too) should be recognized and celebrated. So why do we celebrate the average things?
We celebrate the average things, because as a whole, we are average people, and we want something to celebrate! You say that childbearing and marriage “are the most common thing, ever, in the history of the world. They are, by definition, average. And here’s the thing, why on earth are we settling for average?” Why do we settle for average? Probably because average can be good. Why do we celebrate on birthdays? Because we like people, and at least once a year, we believe that people are worth celebrating simply because they are people.
Ray Bennett, M. D. described it best when he wrote, “There are more than six billion people on the planet. Almost none of them care about your latest victory in the stock market, or the promotion you ‘earned’…But also consider: They don’t care if you fell flat on your face, either….Take heart; the world won’t hold it against you. It’s a simple fact of life that your successes and failures don’t matter to nearly everybody alive.” Why do we celebrate average? Because we are average. All seven billion of us are only 4% different from chimpanzees after all. We’ll take what we can get, and to quote Bennett again, “Being alive at all is by far your greatest achievement.” Birthdays are a symbol of that. Weddings and pregnancies are too! It’s a time to formally celebrate that we are going to contribute to the continuation of the species! According to Darwin, a living creature is only successful if they can produce healthy offspring. Regardless of your capital gain or life experiences, if you don’t contribute to the propagation of the species through marriage, childbearing, or the raising of young (adoption or fostering), then technically you’re not a success. You’re a failure. That’s natural selection. It’s science. Why celebrate the average birthday, wedding or pregnancy? Science. For science.
You still have a good point about everyone (well almost everyone) being able to marry or get pregnant, which makes the act, in and of itself, a little average. We should celebrate those people who really do hard things. We should celebrate people who achieve and reach those impossible goals. Let’s talk about marriage longevity, we should celebrate that. Statistics show that the median length of marriages that end in divorce is eight years. Let’s celebrate tenth anniversaries. Let’s celebrate 20th, 40th, 50th, etc. Success dies with you, but posterity lives on, so let’s celebrate those who can manage their work and finances well while raising 4 or more children. Let’s celebrate the above-average people who make it to a 30th anniversary. Let’s celebrate the achievement of people who have reached goals that we as a society strive for, yet fail to reach.
Enjoy your backpacking tour through Asia, Amy. I will enjoy being a husband and father and flooding my facebook feed with pictures of babies (when that time comes), because science. Science.