Iwanted to write something Halloween themed for this column but had a hard time solidifying a topic. One idea was about how people should just enjoy the holiday despite its “pagan” origins, because even Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter have “pagan” references. I thought about describing why some types of costumes are insensitive, like Native American headdresses or the latex suicide wounds Walmart was selling on their online store until they were removed. Another idea I had was talking about how a pair of animal ears and lingerie aren’t a real costume, not trying to police what women wear, but commenting on the hypersexualization of a holiday based on death. Gross.
Instead, I’m going to talk about fear, something as ubiquitous to Halloween as sticky pumpkin seeds or a white bed sheet with two holes cut out for eyes.
Fear is an unpleasant emotion that develops in response to a perceived danger of the present or future that can produce both physical and behavioral effects … at least that’s what the expert psychologists say. Halloween is the only holiday where we willingly subject ourselves to horror films and out-of-the-ordinary situations just for the sake of being afraid. I used to consider Halloween my favorite holiday, mainly because I like free candy and the sound of crunching leaves under my feet, but nobody told me that when you get older you have to buy your own candy and that Arkansas’ trees don’t shed their leaves fully until November. I’ll never understand intentionally frightening yourself in celebration of a holiday, because, quite frankly, the experts were right in saying that fear is unpleasant.
That being said, I’ve been afraid of a lot of things in my short lifetime. As a kid, I was afraid of talking to anyone outside my family. I used to be afraid to march in the end-of-the-school-year parade in elementary school. In middle school, I was afraid of making new friends after moving. In high school, I was afraid of dating and graduating. As a senior in college, I’m still afraid of dating and graduating. To be honest, I’m still afraid of a lot of things. And it’s not even the things themselves that I’m afraid of, but the potential for failure. I was afraid that people wouldn’t like me, that I’d get my heart broken again, that I wouldn’t amount to anything.
The only good advice I’ve heard lately dealing with overcoming fear came from my favorite TV show, “Game of Thrones:” “The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords.” This is the nerdy, less cliche version of “the only thing to fear is fear itself.”
If I wanted to make friends but sat quietly at my desk and didn’t talk to anyone, I wouldn’t have made any friends. If I want to date someone but I don’t ask them out or tell them that I’m interested, I’m never going to date them. If there’s an open position at my dream company but I don’t apply, I’m definitely not going to get the job. Fear hinders you from accomplishing your goals, and that can be more harmful than trying and failing. You can’t predict the future, unless you’ve read “The Walking Dead” comic books before the TV show airs like my roommate has. If you at least try, there’s still a chance that you’ll succeed, make that friend, date that person or get that job, but if you don’t try, you’ll automatically fail. Isn’t that what we feared in the first place?
I take my previous statement back; subjecting ourselves to fear isn’t as exclusive to Halloween as I once thought.
I now ask the rhetorical question: what are you afraid of? Take a second to think about it. What are you really afraid of? Now go do it. It’s better to have tried and failed than to have failed automatically by never trying. Call this my own version of “it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” Halloween is the holiday for appropriation, after all.