As the air becomes crisp with fall, I am reminded in part of Halloween. In days long past, I was once an avid fan of the season, and was passionate about the whole Halloween aesthetic. For years, I thought about costumes and the sugary hauls I would rake in once Halloween arrived. Year after year, Halloween was the season that got my jollies riled.
As I grew older and came upon my teenage years, the whole Halloween hype simmered down. I did less preparation for the festivities and even took a couple years off to either hang out with friends instead of partaking in the festivities.
With that, however, came that sense of urgency that this aspect of my youth that I had loved for so long was quickly parting. So, at 17 years old, I decided it was time for a last hurrah -- I would go on one final trick-or-treat run, just as my older sister had a couple years prior, on my own.
This proved easier said than done. In the months leading up to it, school had been intense and I spent little time thinking about the occasion. And in all honesty, the idea had only struck me just a couple weeks before Halloween anyway. Nevertheless, I had made up my mind. I bought a crummy skull mask from the local Dollar Store and headed out for the evening.
It took only one house for the sense of embarrassment and shame to build. I imagined what the adults were thinking as they realized a nearly legal teenager was asking them for candy and wearing a costume that looked like he had spent all of three dollars and five minutes putting together. They must've taken one look at me and wondered what was wrong with this poor punim (face).
As any stubborn teenage boy would, I "tried" to push through and enjoy the experience for the sake of the memories and free candy, but the embarrassment continued to mount with each passing house. Then, right as the dark night sky began to fully set in, I ran into some of my little sister's schoolmates.
At first they wondered which of their friend's three brothers I was and I mistakenly explained that I was the eldest. I regretted it immediately. They pointed out what a joke my whole idea was and taunted me for it. In that moment, the embarrassment I felt earlier overflowed and washed away any enjoyment I had feverishly been clinging to up to that point. I began walking home and regretted the entire decision. When my mother asked how it went, she quickly picked up on how the whole thing turned out to be a disaster. Instantly, the fun and twisted enjoyment of Halloween vanished. In the years that followed, Halloween became quickly became "just another day" and my childhood experiences became distant memories.
Several years later, as I began my work toward becoming an observant Jew, Halloween's significance changed yet again. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I looked into the Jewish debate about the holiday, which is often seen as pagan in origin, though that origin is fuzzy and meaning somewhat odd. My research only enforced what I learned that last Halloween -- it is a children's holiday with little for adults. That attitude could have something to do with my Orthodox leanings, but Halloween has long since lost its luster.
I have come to learn two things about that night. One is that we should go with our instincts when it comes to growing up and let things go when it seem like they should be let go; the other is that sometimes it takes an experience like this to make us realize we have grown through a phase of life. Both realities express to me that trying to reclaim a sense of nostalgic enjoyment has a limit. Some adults never lose their love of Halloween, but moving on and embracing change is okay too.