The First Time I Lived In an Apartment: A Personal Rite of Passage

Published 21 Feb 2017

Eduard Lindeman (1921) once said that civilization is marked by the need of mankind to establish good human relationships (1). He stated, “Man is destined by nature and by environment to live in cooperation with his fellow-men” (Lindeman 1921, 1). This forms culture and social organization, as it brings about cordial relationships between its members for the sake of harmony, perpetuation, and self-preservation. To mark the existence of this state of reality, French anthropologist Charles-Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957) insisted that there are certain ‘rites’ that highlight changes during a particular stage of a lifetime, especially during special episodes (i.e., birth, puberty, marriage, parenthood, death) that appear to be almost constant whatever culture or race they may be under. These are what he called ‘rites of passage’, which points to a certain flow of events and changes, which cover distinct and similar features that are marked by culturally defined biological and social phases: (1) separation, (2) transition, and (3) re-incorporation (Goggins II 2004, 4).

The rites of passage reflect social phases that human beings pass over during their lives, such as birth, first steps, first words spoken, first day of school, first learned how to ride bicycle, first cigarette, first girlfriend etc.. There are many kinds of rites (e.g., religious, social, psychological), but for the American citizens, the most usual ones in this heteronormative culture—aside from the ones that were mentioned—include the moment we first live on our own. This is a rite that almost every American citizen lives even to this day. Thus, using the rite of experiencing the first time to live on my own, the paper reveals this transition in the three corporate stages stated by van Gennep.

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The First Stage: Separation

The first stage of the rites of passage is ‘separation’. This reflects a stage wherein the initiate begins to separate from the old ways to gather new skills, trends, and concepts. Being a 22-year-old male, this stage started only recently or less than a year ago, when I decided I had to move out of my parents’ house to live in an apartment that is about eighteen kilometers away from what I used to call home. I know that other friends of mine started this stage at an earlier age as compared to mine. One pal of mine started it during his youth stage, when he was about 16 years old. Another pal started it at the start of his adult stage, when he was about 18. But I am a quarter Native American, and it has been our culture that sons and daughters should not be pushed to do what they do not think they want to do unless they have decided that it is the right time to do it. This gives us freedom and sovereignty. I started to enter the separation stage because of some psychological and social phases that I underwent knowing that, in my crowd (especially in school), I am one of the few remainings that have not gone through this type of ‘living-alone’ transition yet. This social disturbance went its way through the psychological level of my being, and having to live a kind of bland, featureless life made me want to separate myself from my family.

I have interviewed a common pal of mine to ask what he thought when I told him the news less than a year ago. As he stated out, “Yeah. We thought, pal, that you weren’t about to make a final say for yourself. I mean, come on, man, you’re not about to stay still until you’re too old to stand up would you?” (name, personal interview, 20 July 2007). The roles of these comrades, even if they weren’t that close to me, were still very significant to my decision to finally choose to live on my own. The separation stage was the most significant stage for me because it revealed the courage to do some transitions that led to the rite of passage. To celebrate the rite, my friends and I went to the ___________ Club and then spent about six hours, while I tried to figure out the next thing I had to do.

The Second Stage: Transition

The second stage of the rites of passage is called the ‘transition’. Here, the initiate enters the phase of ‘non-member’ and ends it under the phase ‘member’. After understanding who I really am, or what I am about to do, I felt that my life was really starting to take form. We (there were three of us going through a ‘living-alone’ transition) know that there would be new obstacles and complications along the way, such as looking for better means in earning money. Yet for me, the real purpose and meaning of life was starting to appear, and I finally felt some kind of a mental and psychological inner force, entailing me to reach the other end that almost all my friends have already been enjoying.

In my desire to know what my family really felt during this significant transition of mine, I asked for the opinion of my uncle who lives in [place]. This was what he said:
Yeah, boy, it was good to see you finally learnin’ to stand on your own two feet. When I started to live on my own I was about half your age. Well, life was simpler and easier back on those good ol’ days. You just kinda shift that ol’ horse and put grass on the mouth… you’re more likely to succeed livin’! Hahah! Now you can’t do that anymore. And I sure am glad you finally managed to stand up, boy!
(Uncle ___________, personal interview, 22 July 2007)

I started out with the transition stage as a ‘non-member’… during the time when I announced to my family, during our meal, that I have finally decided to live on my own. I sure am glad that they wonderfully accepted my decision. They asked if it was really what I wanted, and I said yes. My dad was so happy seeing his young boy grown up that he said it would be good to go fishing in the afternoon. It is obvious that fishing has been our family’s rite or ritual every time something good and encouraging happens within the family. My brother and sister went with us, so did my mom. About 20 days after, I was already very far from them at Minnesota, and I succeeded in going through the transition stage alive.

The Third Stage: Re-incorporation

Finally, the third stage is called the ‘re-incorporation’, wherein a newly transitioned member gets to be reaccepted again by the community, with the latter expecting the initiate to carry out missions or purposes in the societal trends. This state of passage is the final stage, as the initiate is stripped from its bygone identity after being separated from its previous social status and norm. Regarding my personal rite of beginning to live alone, I realized that I underwent it without being forcefully moved or encouraged. Unlike the earlier rituals of other races, the U.S. culture of the 21st century reflected one that need not be forced or compelled. There are obligations, of course, which initially redefine my new social standing, such as being able to accomplish my duties and responsibilities—my commitment to stand alone in front of the world. Over the cultural history of America, this transition of being able to live alone in a separate room, house, or apartment marks the adolescence of the human being. It was Erikson who stated that, in an individual’s life cycle, there are actually eight ages of the life cycle: childhood and adolescence wrap up the first five stages, while the last three stages are on adulthood and the predicament that goes with it (Kaye 2002). This leads us to the statement that, in America, the rite of living alone for the first time reflects the end of the first five stages and the start of the sixth stage, which is on adulthood and the predicament that goes with it. Even Elliot Jaques developed Erikson’s theory when he stressed the importance of mid-life crisis during individual development (Kaye 2002).

The time I finished the transition stage and entered the re-incorporation stage, I was into adult learning, which appears to be the basic foundation of an adult being’s capacity to learn, to survive, to mingle, to reflect, and to relate. I felt that, while I was going through this third stage, the social community was on its brink of accepting me again into their world.

“Man is born with three instinctive traits, which, in a large degree, give direction to all his motives and his act. Each of us is born with the impulse to preserve his own life … Each normal human being is also endowed with the instinct to perpetuate himself … And each of us is born with the impulse to express his own personality.” –Eduard C. Lindemann 1921

The three stages of the personal rite of passage that I experienced less than a year ago appeared to be smooth flowing and victorious. I personally acknowledge that fact to my family and friends, who both helped me go through a basic transition in my life, which for me is very, very important. There may not be some initiated rite procedures like cutting the hair, putting tattoos, or scarification, yet the family and community trend (i.e., celebrating through fishing, going to the club) can be a reminder that personal rites mirror the culture and lifestyle of the specific initiate. Another significant sign of the rite that points to the successful celebration of being able to live alone is the use of beautiful clothing, ornaments, special food, music and dancing that the heteronormative culture of America has embedded in its culture. Initiation rites of the United States of America depend on the social standing, culture, and race of the initiate. Because our country is a very diverse country, the manner of feasting and going over the rites of passage can also be described as diverse.

I told my mom during the celebration that there won’t be a lot of stress, anyway, since I would be sharing my room with two of my closest friends.

“Yes, I know, son. I’m happy that you’ve grown now and that you know how to live on your own. But if in any case you’d need some hand or whatever, just tell us and we’d hand you over the keys,” she insisted before I left to gather all my belongings to Dad’s car.

“Yes, I know that, Ma. There won’t be much I should be doing anyway. All I would need to do is to just survive that’s all!” Yet the thought suddenly made me frown.


  • Goggins II, Lathardus. “The Academic STARS Retention Model: An Empirical Investigation of its Effectiveness.” Soup and Substance Series (2004, February 11): 1-26. Powerpoint presentation. Available from the National Coalition for African-Centered Rites of Passage database.
  • Kaye, Jeffrey. Adult Development and Psychotherapy, (2002). Database on-line. Available at Jeffrey Kaye, Ph.D. database.
  • Khalaf, May. “Inquiry Reports: Rites of Passage: van Gennep and Beyond.” Introduction to Ritual Studies I, (2001). Database on-line. Available at Thom Parkhill’s Homepage, St. Thomas University database.
  • Lindeman, Eduard C. The Community: An Introduction to the Study of Community Leadership and Organization. New York: The International Committee of Young Men’s Christian Association, 1921.
  • “Rite of Passage.” Wikipedia Online Encyclopedia, (2007). Database on-line. Available at Answers Corporation database.
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