November 1, 2012

Shrug Off Your Old Self



My daughter the Spider Princess and my son the Zombie went to Safe Treat at the University of Wyoming Student Union last night.  It was so fun.  I’m so glad all the groups across campus put this on.  Every year, the whole building is packed with ghouls and goblins small and large, and the grown-up kids seem to have just as much fun as the small ones.

My daughter looks forward every year to having her face painted.  Even if there’s a long line, she insists, and she agonizes over which design to select.  The line was short this year, so my son got his painted as well.

It’s fascinating to me, this assumption of another character.  One of the main reasons I’m a writer is because I’m always fascinated with people’s motivations, and so it’s doubly fascinating about why certain people choose certain costumes.  Someone withdrawn and demure goes all out for Halloween and puts on a costume of a true psychopath.  Someone who you’d think would be wild and go all out refuses or chooses something very conservative and traditional.  Very interesting stuff.

This fits well with other things I’ve been thinking about.  Self-improvement, for example.  That’s another way in which we envision a character and then we try to assume that character.  We imagine this ideal person ~ more beautiful, stronger, more effective, smarter, funnier, whatever.  Then we try to find ways to assume this ideal. 

We have these goals in life, and we try to achieve them.  Sometimes it’s something small like not eating that donut in the office break room, and sometimes it’s huge like moving to another continent or effecting world peace. 

And if you’re like me, when you’re in a mood of self-improvement, you try to do it all at once ~ lose weight AND eat healthy AND write the next great American novel AND be a better mother AND be a better wife AND exercise every day AND be more effective at work.  You know how it is ~ I want it all and I want it now.

But I think it’s a worthy endeavor in general, this assuming of alternative identities.  It allows us freedom to imagine ourselves as something different, to break out of our ruts and expand imaginings.  And we have these built-in times in our lives when we can do this ~ Halloween certainly, but also when we move or go away to college, when we make a new friendship or date a new person. 

Heck, when we get a haircut.  You know the saying: change your hair, change your life.

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