It’s nearly Halloween. You can smell the fire pit; feel the brisk fall breeze, while a dampness creeps into your bones. As you walk through the aisles of the supermarket, you’re greeted by a man in a tuxedo and a cape, carrying a cane. The lady at the checkout is dressed as Peter Pan. They are making caramel apples with apples so large they could be grapefruit. Kids eyes have grown larger, and their teeth are shouting in protest. The treats abound and as the night encroaches on us all, only the few and the brave will wander the neighborhoods to pillage and plunder while impersonating Johnny Depp impersonating a Pirate or perhaps they have grown horns from their head while wielding a pitchfork made of flames and fake blood.
As kids, Halloween can be a day where we dress and act like our hero’s. We can have super powers. We can do magic. It’s a day that fantasy becomes more truth than fiction, where imaginations bloom into reality. It’s also the day where anything and everything that scares us can manifest into walking and talking characters willing to trade a Snickers for a Kit Kat. As kids, trick-or-treating, we walked the streets without fear, seeing Werewolves, Witches, Zombies, Devils, Dinosaurs, Aliens, and then there were the Fairies, the Knights, Cops, Firemen, Army Soldiers, Nurses and Doctors, Wonder Women and Super Men.
As adults, well, what do we really make of Halloween now? It is wonderful to walk in the market and see men and women in costume. But have we let our spirit for fantasy vanish into the black hole of adulthood, responsibility, reality? Do we let our pride or maturity over rule the enticement of fiction and fanciful adventure? If you see someone of middle age dressed as a fairy do you smile while letting their glitter cast magic on your heart, or do you take too much note on the details of their costume and focus on the plastic or the fake?
Now, this may seem like an obvious statement, but what I want to propose to you all is that Halloween, and anyone who chooses to dress and live their fantasy, child or adult, may be the one day that we are the most honest to ourselves and to others.
The fact is, for us responsible and rational adults, the every day life we have to lead means that we have to be sociably acceptable, live to certain rules and mannerisms, in order to fit in or be successful. If you’re a kid and dress as a Wall Street Tycoon, its cute and funny. Give him or her some Monopoly money and a monocle and they’ll break your heart. As an adult, being a true Tycoon means playing many more roles: mentor, dictator; manipulative yet compassionate. Or, compassionately manipulative. That’s just one example. Another and more heartbreaking is to imagine a Doctor who brings devastating news to a patient and their family. They cannot allow themselves to show how they really feel, not all the way, and still do their job. They must deliver news, provide help and assistance, showing strength even while their knees want to buckle under the pressure of just doing their job.
Being an adult can crush our spirits at times. Work can push our limits of physical and mental stamina. We will struggle with our family, finances, and friends. We love them and we pay our bills, but there are many days that being a socially responsible person can break our spirit or deaden our imagination. So, we wear a different kind of mask, and we hide our feelings. We do this to protect those we love. We do this to protect our own sanity. And we live our lies with fake smiles, forced laughs. We live in our masks, nodding at strangers around us who we call mates.
Now, this all seems quite bleak and dark. This is more frightening than the dark and stormy nights we feared as children, or the goblins and ghouls around the cemetery. This scary Halloween tale rings too true to heart. So, what are we to do with this knowledge?
Remember what it was like to be a kid. You don’t have to take the mask off. You just need to change the character. Dress up as the one you admire. Wear the mask of the hero. Wear the mask as the witch! Put on your pointy hat and pointy shoes and let it out, cry, and shriek. Those closest will understand, and those that extend out their arms will remind you that no matter what mask you wear, you’re supported.
Life is smoke and mirrors, just remember that the person in that mirror can be whomever you wish them to be.