I will confess to watching, more than once, the show “Inside the Actors Studio”, with the wonderfully pretentious James Lipton as the host. I’ve also seen the brilliant Saturday Night Live Will Ferrell skit that introduced the word “scrumtrulescent” into my vocabulary. (It’s ok, you can go watch it. I’ll wait…)
If you’ve watched the real show or the SNL spoof, you’ll know that at the end of the interview James asks his guest ten questions. What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word? What sound or noise do you love? What is your favorite curse word? Some of the celebrity responses are revealing. After watching a few episodes, you’ll start thinking about your own answers to this now-famous questionnaire.
Just to be clear, NO, I did not spend the first official day of my sabbatical watching reruns of “Inside the Actors Studio”. And I’m not going to bore you with all of my answers – just one. Because my favorite word has been following me around all day, just outside of my field of vision, waiting for me to see and remember it: liminal.
Liminality comes from anthropology and describes the disorientation that can occur partway through a ritual or transition. The participants are no longer the same as they were at the start, but they haven’t yet achieved the status that they’ll have at the end of the process. They are said to be at a threshold, between two states.
I can’t remember when I first learned about this – it may have been in a freshman anthropology class or during my post-collegiate love affair with Joseph Campbell – but I do remember that the concept made a lot of sense to me. It gave me a way to identify and better understand the inevitable transitions of my early 20s (and mid 20s, and early 30s, and mid 30s…). And it’s helping me make sense of these few days before I board my flight and really get started on this adventure.
I’ve learned not to look for comfort in these liminal spaces, just patience. I try to remember that something is happening. Something has begun, and the restlessness and ambiguity are part of the deal if I’m going to see it through to the end. Today I’m just glad that my favorite word decided to reappear on Day One of My Sabbatical, when I needed it most.
So here’s to liminality. Scrumtrulescent liminality.