Halloween is a fun holiday. Reality can be harsh so the annual ritual of dressing up in an outfit completely outside the spheres of our realities can be a much needed escape for both children and adults alike. One particular Halloween during childhood, my mother was adamant that I go trick-or-treating wearing a hanbok. What is a hanbok, you ask? This is a hanbok:
A hanbok is traditional Korean formalwear. My mother kept saying to me, “Why dress up like something you’re not? Just wear a hanbok. You’re Korean. This is who you are! Go as who you are!” I was probably 9 or 10 at the time and embarrassed out of my mind. But my mother wouldn’t budge. And I wanted my candy. So there I was, a little Korean kid, trick-or-treating as…a little Korean kid. My friends made some fun, people handing out candy didn’t know what I was supposed to be, and I felt clumsy wearing my oversized hanbok, but all in all it was a good night and I ended up with more than enough candy.
As I think back to that Halloween, I think my mother was on to something. The truth is, we wear costumes everyday that misrepresent us. I know I do. Every morning when I walk out of my house and into the world, I put on a face, an attitude, and a demeanor. I try to exude certain things to certain people… confidence, humility, intelligence, wit… I wear whatever costume I need to wear in order to keep myself sitting comfortably perched on a certain plane in the tower of others opinions. But I am so very often faking my way through things. I am not what others think I am. Or maybe I am exactly what others think I am but am too misguided to know. Most likely, I am something in between. Regardless, I think it’s safe to admit that I feel much different on the inside than I try so hard to look on the outside. This routine of putting on the costume is wearing me out.
Seeing so many people wearing their costumes today reminds me that Halloween is only fun because we know this isn’t who we really are. My wife and I hosted a Halloween party for a few friends over the weekend. Mary Poppins was there, as were Katy Perry, Russell Brand, and an Oreo cookie, among others. My wife and I were Mr. and Mrs.Potatohead. We’ve got some great pictures.
And maybe this is the secret to becoming more honest, real, and genuine people. Maybe the act of gathering together and admitting that we really aren’t the people we’re portraying can be the catalyst for collectively embracing the reality that there is something more flawed but beautiful behind the costume. Maybe it is when we, in unison, admit that we have all been playing a role in a very fabricated story, we can finally begin to live into a different story together. A more honest and genuine story, full of failures and successes but uncompromisingly hopeful.
So here’s to admitting that we’re all a little fake most of the time and, in doing so, becoming a bit more comfortable being the real us with each other. Even if it means wearing a hanbok on occasion. Happy Halloween.