As I watched my little girl getting dressed for her school’s costume parade, I felt a wave of nostalgia for a time when Halloween was one of the most exciting days of the year. What was it about that particular day? Getting candy was a huge deal, of course. But it was dressing up in costume to get that candy that excited me the most. On that day, I could pretend to be anything or anyone I wanted. “Mom, what are you going to dress up as?” my daughter wants to know. I don’t even have a costume, I think to myself. In truth, the only reason I would consider donning a costume would be to please her. I wondered why I couldn’t muster up any of that old excitement about playing pretend for just one day.
I realized then that Halloween lost its magic because most days of the year I wear masks. The one day when it’s okay to pretend isn’t anything special at all. I love watching young kids pretend because they are so obvious about it. They are so free to be themselves everyday that being someone else is a big deal. In their teenage years, my boys have started to build their own facade as they try to find their place in the world. This is a harmless and even necessary phase of developing identity but, for many of us, we never shed these masks. As adults, we continue to pretend for various reasons. We may pretend to be positive when we are suffering inside, we pretend to be strong when we need help, we pretend not to care when someone hurts us. Some of us may even hide our gifts and talents so as to not face criticism or isolation. We don’t intentionally seek out to deceive others but somehow we have come to believe that we need to be a certain way to be accepted, understood, or even loved. If we are lucky, we have at least one person with who we can be ourselves with.
This Halloween, I will start a new tradition. Instead of dressing up as someone else, I will go as myself, my real self. Who knows, maybe it will look good enough to wear everyday.