Every year parents across the nation go out and buy bags of candy in preparation of the big night: Halloween. My mom waited for the holiday to pass, so we could buy the candy on sale. Other parents would plan their decorations and sound effects to invite the trick-or-treaters to their doorstep. We would shut off all the lights, and watch a movie behind locked doors. Children would dream and scheme about pranks and costumes, and pick out the perfect vessel to safely deliver the mounds of candy back to their homes. I would look adoringly at all the wonderful possibilities to become someone else for a night, and walk away content with simply imagining what I could become. Other kids craved the stomach ache of a successful night trick or treating. I never envied the ache, and it never really bothered me to not participate in Halloween or any other holiday as a child. It never hit me I was missing something until the 6th grade when I asked a classmate when Halloween was. She assumed I was joking because it was absurd someone could ask such a thing. She couldn’t understand it was an insignificant day to me because I had never experienced it the way most of my peers had.
I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness. Long story short: they do not celebrate holidays. I didn’t even celebrate my birthday until I turned seven. Sure, I got presents and I enjoyed a birthday dinner with my family each year, but I never invited friends over for a party. It was the same for Christmas. We enjoyed “Exchange Day,” a day where we would share a meal and exchange gifts, sometime during December or January. I never believed in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny. I was that kid, unfortunately, that accidently spoiled another’s reality. I was simply different, and never held the same beliefs everyone around me had. I am still very different from my peers in many ways.
Now, that I’m moved away from home, and making my own decisions, I can’t wait to partake in all things Spooky Season. With Halloween creeping closer, I am excited to see the makeup and the cute couples’ costumes. I am excited to buy candy after Halloween to enjoy, and I am intrigued by haunted houses and horror films –the ones I never experienced as a kid. There is still something so alluring about becoming someone, or something, else for a night. We all hide behind a mask. For most it is the smile that hides the pain. For others there is a title they hide behind. And for some, we have become so lost in our mask that we are unsure who we really are. Halloween is a time to experiment, and put on another mask or to simply take the one we live in off and breathe.
Whatever mask you live in, I hope it makes you happy. I hope it helps you become a better person and better connect with others, but I also hope you take it off sometimes. I may have grown up never having known a true Halloween, but I do understand what it feels like to dress up and hide. There is nothing more terrifying than shedding your armor and allowing someone to see you –the real you. The beautiful broken you hidden away from the world, but it is also the most liberating feeling. When you chose to be vulnerable, a whole new world opens up and you remember who you are again. You may get hurt, we’ve all been there, and the moment your guard is down may be brief, but it is worth it. You are worth it. Your authentic self is beautiful and so perfect in many imperfect ways. Embrace yourself. Take off the mask sometimes, and breathe for own sake.