Write-Off Passage


In Norway, students finish school and embark on an extended binge drinking adventure called “Russetid“.  The aim is to write yourself off as much as you possibly can and then break as many social ‘rules’ as possible in order to score points for doing so. 

Italians have the same thing going on. Before the young men head off to fulfill their national service, men of the township are given a grace period where they ‘run through the village causing havoc and mahem while their mothers turn a blind eye to their actions’.

Australians have Schoolies. We all know what happens there…

This global phenomena absolutely fascinates me. Why do young people get to a point in their life and all of a sudden decide, as a collective, to get totally messy and do things that they have never done before and in a lot of cases, will never do again!? Is it biological? Are we born with this computer chip inside us that says, ‘OK Chris, when you finish high-school, it’s time to separate yourself entirely from your morals, your integrity and your dignity then go ahead and vomit vodka and red frogs all over them.’

I’m not saying this from a point of criticism because it obviously serves some social purpose, right? There must be a reason for the madness, otherwise we wouldn’t do it. So I thought I would do some research into why this global phenomena occurs and try and find out what purpose it serves. One explanation that I believe may be the case is that of Chris Watters (CEO of Drinkwise). He explains the phenomenon of young people writing themselves off as a form of  Rite of Passage’.

Rite of Passage

 Nearly all animals (humans included) go through a process called a Rite of Passage (if you are yet to come across this expression, you can check out an explanation here). A rite of passage gives individuals an opportunity to choose (or more to the point, find out) their ‘adult’ identity and how that identity fits within the greater society of which they belong. It’s a turning point, a new chapter, an evolution and an adaptation for a person to redefine who they are and what they stand for as an individual.

 So… why do young people need to go through copious amounts of alcohol to find this out?

My idea: I would say that the majority of the western world  maintains a similar (definitely not identical) background of experience. We have some sort of supportive (even obsessive) care from our family and a high school education.  Our lives are pretty well run, 24hrs a day. Our choice is very limited and our identity is largely reflective to that of our superiors. Right up until the day we graduate (or complete grade 10 at least).

Then, life (for most) becomes very different. We go from a world completely made up from other peoples choices, to a world where we now have to make our own. It’s a massive shift in responsibility (for most) and a massive shift in identity. This is where the rite of passage comes in to play. We need to grow up. We need to learn how to be an adult. And we need to do it.. fast.

So, how do we do that? We take risks.

When we take risks in life, we grow the most. When we do things that we normally wouldn’t do, it shakes up who we previously know ourselves to be and shows up who we are at our core. Drinking is a very effective way (not necessarily safe) for young people to achieve this shake up. 

At events like schoolies, we throw everything we define ourselves as up in the air, so we can choose who we want to be when we return back to the tribe (society). It’s a very, very formative part of a persons life and often has ramifications that last a lifetime. But it happens for a reason. Its a rite of passage.

Schoolies Survivor

So what do I think about Schoolies? I’m all for it! But I have two final points I want to make on this topic.

Today when young people go through this rite of passage process (such as schoolies), it’s all about the throwing up of identity and very little about choosing one. Unfortunately, in most cases, there is no sacred ceremony, no great challenge that completes the journey and no welcoming back of the new person into society. I would suggest therefore that a lot of young people are still searching for their identity, and as a result, they are still throwing up themselves through drinking and risk taking behavior each and every weekend, trying to find one.

Secondly, on Friday I went to my sister Heidi’s special graduation ceremony at home and I was talking with John Dobson about what Christianity means to him. “To me,” he said, “Christianity is about constant re-birth and new life”. So it is with that concept that I want to finish. Life should be about undertaking regular rites of passages. Every now and then, we should take some crazy risks, throw things up a bit. Just as long as we evolve in the process.  

So, to help me practice what I preach – please add your suggestions for some crazy Hello Sunday Morning activities here


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  • Interesting. But it sounds reckless- as if they’re being trained to be rebellious 🙂

    By pochp
    April 28, 2009
  • Your paragraph that assumes on behalf of 95% of Western adolescents is way off, dude. I’ve no problem with you extrapolating your theories based on your own experience, but it falls over if you assume that all (or 95%) of adolescents experienced the same upbringing that you did.

    April 28, 2009
    • Hi Andrew, you are totally right. I apologise for the assumption!

      I will change that so it makes more sense.

      I meant that the majority of us are required to go to school, or Tafe, or some sort of educational program (largely chosen for us).

      Do you believe you went through a rite of passage, similar to that described in the post, when you finished school? Or what was your experience?

      By hellosundaymorning
      April 28, 2009
  • Nice ideas Chris. Ive always wondered how Schoolies could be a ‘rite of passage’ and I think for me it was like uh oh now I have to be an adult…better have all the fun I can now (and apparently fun meant making the week a complete write off). Not too sure I discovered who I was meant to be as an individual (and are you right, is this the reason I keep getting drunk every weekend??)

    Keep those thoughts coming…

    By Elle Ray
    April 28, 2009
  • The Amish in America have the same sort of thing. Almost all stay within the faith after the freedom to choose not to.

    By ahrcanum
    May 11, 2009
    • That’s an interesting conversation. I wonder how much choice someone has, if they never actually know or experience the other side. Where does choice actually come from? Is there a universal freedom?

      By hellosundaymorning
      May 13, 2009
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