Trick-or-treat all year long

| Forum Editor

When I was 3 years old, my mom dressed me up for Halloween as my treasured clock radio. Yes, for reasons I no longer understand, I spent an entire holiday dressed as a pre-iHome electronic wake-up call. I trick-or-treated that year encased in a giant cutout piece of white foam board, festooned with permanent marker buttons.

I spent another early Halloween dressed as a mail carrier. Again, I’m not really sure of the motivation behind that one.

Illogical as these childhood costumes may seem now, they have one important trait in common. Each one allowed me to temporarily slip into a different persona, to experiment, to become something other than my childhood self.

In that sense, Halloween costumes should be irrelevant to college students. The entirety of our four years is meant for self-exploration, for trying on new masks and new costumes daily and figuring out what fits best. In theory, we have no need for a specific day to dare to become someone new.

Yet that isn’t quite how it works out. College students celebrate Halloween more intensely than most. Sure, we’ve traded princess (or, in my case, clock radio) costumes for something a bit more revealing, and we consume large quantities of alcohol instead of hard-earned Halloween candies. Still, we love the opportunity to play dress-up.

College does allow us some room for experimentation and change, but too often, it is insufficient. We too readily become prematurely trapped in costumes we chose long ago or in those laid out before us.

The decision to attend Wash. U. is itself in some ways confining. This is a school full of smart, motivated students. Accepting an offer of admission here commits us to four years—and eventually, a lifetime—of successful overachievement.

And then there are the majors we choose and the friends we acquire. These too confine us. Sometimes we switch our academic focus or our friendships alter, but these changes are the exception rather than the rule. As our college career progresses, our role here becomes increasingly pre-defined.

We have our entire lives ahead of us, full of set careers and familial obligations. True, there is a great deal of comfort in developing a fixed identity, and I often wish to speed up the process of self-discovery and arrive immediately at the knowledge of my purpose in life. Still, I’m not ready to be done playing dress-up.

Halloween shouldn’t be the only time we feel brave enough to slip on new roles and try things we would not attempt unmasked. We should be pushing ourselves routinely, constantly, to try more, to explore more, to be more.

We should be pushing each other, too. I wish I could say that bold experimentation comes solely from within and, therefore, reshaping our college experience requires nothing more than a few introspective glances in the mirror. The truth is, however, that redefining ourselves is much easier when the world around us is open to such redefinition.

Ultimately, we should strive to make the Wash. U. experience a bit more like a perpetual Halloween, albeit without the fake spider webs and tombstones. Or the clock radio costumes.

Eve is a junior in Arts & Sciences and a forum editor. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

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