If you ask a child what their favorite holiday is they’ll likely be torn between Halloween and Christmas. I mean who can choose between toys from a jolly old man soaring through the sky with his reindeer and getting free candy for the mere price of holding out your pillowcase and saying the magic words “Trick-or-Treat!” But if you asked me I wouldn’t have hesitated to tell you it was Halloween. Not only because of the free candy, though it played a major part, but because it allowed me for one night to become anyone I wanted to. Unfortunately, as a child, I may have taken this idea a bit too literally.
Halloween at age four was an especially exciting day because for the first time ever I was able to pick out my own costume. Not only was I excited about the concept of being able to dress up as whoever or whatever I wanted, but was also glad I wouldn’t be forced to wear some atrocious baby costume. According to my mom, she dressed me up as a candy corn at age two and a lobster with giant googly eyes at age three. I’m just thankful Facebook hadn’t been invented yet and my mom didn’t have a platform to share this, though the polaroids still haunt me. But now it was my turn to choose.
My mom took me to the nearest Halloween supply store and told me to pick out whatever I wanted. The choices were infinite and needless to say I was overwhelmed. Did I want to be a pirate? A robot? A robo-pirate? I just couldn’t choose. But then I turned the corner and saw what must have been placed in the store by some sort of divine power. All the other costumes faded from memory as I stared with awe at the what I knew had to be my costume. It was a Super Suit complete with cape and all. I grabbed it off the rack instantly and rushed back as fast as I could to tell my mom I had made my decision, and so my fate was sealed.
On the day of Halloween, my preschool was having a costume party and I couldn’t wait to show off my costume. I could hardly sleep I was so excited. But then as my mother drove me to my pre-school, doubt crept in. I wasn’t sure if my classmates would feel the same way I did about my superhero costume. Perhaps this had all been a huge mistake. But my mother assured me everyone would love it. She dropped me off, kissed my forehead, and told me to have fun. I walked in and all my doubts were squashed. I was receiving compliments left and right from everyone and it was pretty clear, at least to me, that I had the best costume there. This is where the delusions of grandeur began.
We were let out for recess and I immediately began zipping up and down the playground, arms stretched out in typical Superman fashion. I began to feel more powerful, almost invincible. Something was different. I then began to suspect it was my Super Suit. Wasn’t the suit what gave Superman his powers? I began to assess the gravity of my situation and came to the daring conclusion that I could fly.
I continued bounding up and down the playground, but even though I had my arms stretched out like Superman, I couldn’t help but notice my feet were still on the ground. I tried running faster, jumping, anything that might help me realize my dream of flight, but nothing seemed to work.
But then an even crazier thought slipped into my mind. Maybe I just needed to start somewhere up high and jump off. I wasn’t going totally horizontal when I jumped on the ground and this had to be the issue. I glanced over at the tallest spire of the castle playground and in it I saw my hopes and dreams. I ascended the stairs, my heart beating out of control and then looked down. Oh god. That was a long way down. Doubt, for the second time that day, began to creep in. I began to question my original plan. I’m not exaggerating when I say I stood at the top of that playground for at least 20 minutes, pacing back and forth weighing the pros and cons of such a daring feat.
If it does work I’ll be the envy of the entire school.
But what if I fall?
But I could be the first four-year-old to ever achieve flight in history.
But what if I fall?
I might never get an opportunity like this again.
But what if I fall?
I became frustrated with myself. I had doubted myself earlier today and it had been silly to do so. This couldn’t be any different. My mom and teachers had always told that anything was possible if I put my mind to it. Superman was a man of action so it was time for me to do the same. No thinking. Just Jumping.
I calmly walked to the back of the platform to get a running start. I looked over the edge and I saw destiny. I began to run with all my speed, gracefully propelling myself with every magnificent stride. I bounded off the platform going entirely horizontal, fists stretched out as before, but now I was truly in proper flying position. I was soaring through the air uninhibited. For two seconds at least. While those two seconds wouldn’t last, in it I felt I had become untethered from the Earth and a pure sense of childlike wonder pervaded my very being. But inevitably, both that sentiment and my arm would be crushed as I slammed onto the ground and back to reality.
But while my sense of childlike wonder and faith in myself may have been injured, much like my arm it would heal in time. Children are more resilient than we give them credit for and it’s nothing short of remarkable that they can withstand countless failures, disappointments, and in my case, an arm fractured in multiple places and a shattered dream, without letting cynicism creep in. While cynicism, or as many call it realism, may have its place in life, it will never live up to the beauty of pure childlike wonder. It’s the reason you couldn’t sleep on Christmas night, and it’s the part of you that jumped out of bed at six in the morning, rather than sleep in til noon, to go hunt for ladybugs because your mom told you they were good luck. After years of all-nighters, 20-page papers, break ups, and lost friendships, we’ve all let cynicism creep in at least a little bit. We have given up our lady bug expeditions for more “important” things and brush it off as childhood foolishness. But if you feel this way you’ve fallen into a trap that even my four-year-old-self didn’t. My advice to you?
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