Enthusiasm is a form of social courage. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the highlights of my email inbox this past month was an invitation to a dear friend’s “Career Reveal Party.” This friend is an explorer — she volunteered in the Peace Corps before attending Divinity School, she’s an ordained minister and she’s served in a variety of capacities, including hospital chaplaincy, immigration support and campus ministry — and her next move is anybody’s guess. With her usual sense of flair and pizazz, she’s decided to announce her decision with cake, champagne and a toast.
Now, I am fully aware that the words “career reveal party” have the potential to get eyes rolling and “oh, millennials!” flying. I understand. If I didn’t know the person extending the invitation to be the opposite of self-obsessed and more than capable of laughing at herself (in her email message she noted that she included many out-of-town friends on the invitation, not because she expected them to travel to her party, but because she thought they’d be amused by the idea of it) I would bristle at the suggestion of this party. But knowing my friend gives me a different lens for viewing this invitation.
Knowing my friend to be generous in time, spirit and resources and a person well practiced in taking herself lightly, I see this party as an example of embracing life with exuberance and having the courage to show enthusiasm along the way. In the name of humility — and maybe also a fear of vulnerability — I think a lot of us have the temptation to downplay our achievements, hopes and plans. We hesitate to make a “big deal” out of anything, we avoid the spotlight, and we keep quiet about our inner workings. We figure: if someone wants to know what’s going on for us, they’ll ask. I think the impulse behind the “stay quiet” mentality — erring on the side of humble — is good, but my friend’s email pushed me to consider the benefits of living life more openly and enthusiastically.
First, it reminded me that celebrating is a way of honoring the things that matter to us. My friend’s decision about what to do next in life is the product of time, energy and discernment. People throw parties for birthdays all the time, and arguably, making a career move is a much bigger deal than changing ages, which happens without much (any?) effort on our part. Celebrating a career move is a way of paying tribute to the nights of lost sleep, the hours of questioning and conversing about possibilities and the effort that went into research, applications and interviews. It’s a way of saying thank you to the people who helped us along the journey and to the universe for giving us the opportunity to journey in the first place.
My friend’s invitation also demonstrated that celebrating brings people together. Gathering for a specific reason helps people who wouldn’t ordinarily interact — my friends’ former classmates, current co-workers, previous roommates, and so on — connect emotionally as we together take part in our shared friend’s excitement. Old friends see each other, new friends meet, we all share food and conversation; anything that makes the world a more friendly and connected place is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.
Finally, my friend’s upcoming party transforms a typical Friday into a festive one, the ordinary moment of revealing an anything-but-ordinary life transition (because what life transition seems ordinary to the person going through it?) into an extraordinary moment of celebration. In other words, celebrating makes life fun. It adds a depth — a layer of meaning and richness — to life. It makes me think of the e. e. cummings line “unbeing dead isn’t being alive” and I’m reminded that celebration helps make us alive.
Reflect: What’s worth celebrating in your life right now?What are some ways that you can show enthusiasm for the stuff of you life?
Teresa Coda works as a Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic Church, dabbles in interfaith hospital chaplaincy, and writes about life and spirituality. She has a Masters in Divinity from Harvard Divinity School where she studied theology and pastoral care and counseling. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband Caleb, her daughter Esther and her Boston terrier Bean.