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Clippings: One era ends, yet another begins

At a wedding over the Memorial Day weekend, a couple of those later-in-the-evening-toasts referenced “the end of an era” as this friend in his mid-30s had met the princess of his heart and was leaving the single life behind.
An adventurer, cyclist, outrageous skier, runner, climber of 18,000-foot peaks, Dan is also a graduate of law school with a focus on public policy and, perhaps most germane to this reference, he knows how to have a good time.
His college roommates and best buds gave him the appropriately bawdy toasts, embarrassing the bride and groom to the best of their abilities but always circling back to one or two of the groom’s redeeming qualities. Other guests made proper toasts; a few were sincere insights into either the bride’s or groom’s characters, and all recognized the change that had come about since the two had met and how the union had created a profound happiness in both.
The toasts hailed the new era to come, of course, but also gave a hail and hearty farewell to singlehood well lived. It is not the passing of an era that is celebrated, after all, but that the era was lived to the fullest — at full speed and without fear — and that another era is approaching in which the same life philosophy holds true.
The same could be said of the transitions throughout our school years: from pre-school to elementary, elementary to middle school, high school to post graduation. And in our personal lives we see the end of eras in our childhood, as teenagers, young adults, middle age and then that prolonged and ageless era of wisdom that completes the life circle.
Each era has its special joys and opportunities, as well as obstacles, and the challenge is to live those eras in the fullest ways we know how.
All are also journeys colored by the daily decisions we make, which, if you chart your life by that standard, makes each decision more important than we might otherwise think.
What does it mean to continue on to college after high school graduation or forego more schooling and get a job? What does it mean to change jobs several times over, or to change jobs in mid-career? What does it mean to marry or pass on possibilities; or to file for divorce, or decide to stay married? What does it mean to uproot oneself from years in a community and move to a different town or state?
What will it mean to go from working full time to retirement? How do you keep productive, mentally engaged, socially active, emotionally fulfilled?
We often know the answer when we ask the big questions: What will it mean to the future of a young person, for instance, if they choose to attend college or opt to immediately enter the work force? Will that choice establish a blueprint of options that will be difficult to reverse?
But those aren’t necessarily the questions asked of us. Rather, they are more nuanced, more seductive.
Because a student may not have done particularly well in high school, and because options for higher education are few, and the expense is high, the question becomes whether it is better for the student to get a job now and hope to pursue more schooling later — and in the meantime have enough money to buy wheels and go on dates.
Often our choices lead into unknown waters, forced there because the current situation has become troubled or too sedate or, hopefully, because the prospective changes are most welcome. Whichever the case, the significant changes in our lives signal the end of a particular era and the start of another.
Perhaps the era we seem to have the least control over is the one that starts when we fall in love. Ready or not, Cupid does his thing, then chance and happenstance and hard work and resolve and tolerance and dumb luck all exercise their influence to bring two people together.
We enter this new era with more hope and optimism than almost any other portion of our lives. We vow to live life to its fullest in harmony, to provide and care for each other, and to pursue our dreams with the one other person who makes it all worthwhile.
It is the optimistic essence of who we are as human beings.
The hope and promise is that this is the one era in life that doesn’t end, but rather the one that defines who you become to children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and from which legacies and traditions blossom. I’ll toast to that.

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