Life Is a Series of Stages

As we reflect on certain periods of our lives, we tend to sort and label experiences.
For example, “I thought that was an attractive hairstyle at age twelve!” Or, “I went through a Goth stage in high school when all I wore was black,” and, “during those years, everyone I knew smoked cigarettes.”
Life is a series of stages, one flowing into the next, overlapping with whatever follows. Some stages are good, some not so good, some utterly embarrassing, and some we don’t want our children to ever know about.
The word “stage” is both a place noun (a live performance on stage), and a temporal noun (a stage in time). We can be on stage or off stage, upstage or downstage; we can be “upstaged” but not “downstaged.” Stages in time may overlap or be well-defined. Stages of grief, for example, ebb and flow, while a stage we dance on is solid and supportive.
Stages can mark progress. There was a time when no one lived in air-conditioned houses, until gradually we did. A century ago, there were no cars or proper roads on which to travel, and then there were. There was a time before I-35 existed and a definite after. Most of the time, however, stages are just marked by change.
We might ask ourselves, “How old were the children when we traveled to Yosemite in that old Buick?” and note how we progressed from the VW Beetle to the Family Truckster to an electric vehicle. We might wonder, “ Why in the world did I think those short skirts looked good?” Now we’re working from home on a personal computer while wearing yoga pants. We remember when TV dinners were all the rage, but now we pay attention to salt intake and eat non-processed foods (although sometimes we cheat).
For better or worse, some stages repeat themselves. Facial hair on men was in style 150 years ago mostly because shaving was hazardous. It’s all the rage, now, and considered very manly. Just like shoulder pads and wide ties, these fads will come and go, just like polka dots, hot pink, and madras plaid. One day these guys may say, “What was I thinking? It was the style back then.” Their partners may have some influence, here.
Once upon a time, I smoked a pack of cigarettes daily. I quit cold turkey twice, and the third time for good. When I started and when I finally stopped were consistent with my attitudes at the time.
During my youth, many people smoked. But over time, smoking has become taboo, and what was pervasive many years ago is now rare. This was a stage: I smoked then and now I don’t. The last stage ended abruptly with a defined fault line and no regrets.
Life produces memories that flow freely over time, weaving together experiences that gives our lives richness, character, and meaning. One stage gradually blends into the next, like multiple relay races. We are influenced by the times in which we live: innovations, friends, family, politics, health, and work, as well as the choices we make. We can laugh at some of these stages now and hope the next ones will be better. We can pass along what we’ve learned that will be useful to others.
But we are always “on stage” in some manner. So, make it a grand performance in 2021!

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