Happy Halloween, People.
I haven’t written for fun in a while—that lazy free-flowing kind of writing I used to get after with a cup of coffee at a cafe, when I had no job, was putting off my grad school assignments, still believed in the easy-way all my hopes and dreams would just fall into place (and didn’t concern myself with comma splices).
That second-to-last sounds dramatic. Nothing of real consequence has happened in my life to date that I could complain about, so don’t read it that way. I just mean that the naive belief that things would just happen without much trying on my part, because why wouldn’t they? is no longer. I do find the phrase still rolls off other people’s tongues though—often people who seem to not have reached an impasse in their own lives thus far. Just let it happen! It’ll all work out. I’m not really sure what ‘it’ is in that sentence anymore, but y’all. I’m getting to an age where I make audible but involuntary groans when I stand up. That’s me letting things happen.
I started writing, because I was thinking about Halloween and dressing up and pretending to be other versions of people or animals or characters. For fun. It’s incredibly fun—for a bit—to be someone else. I dressed up as Jennifer Garner’s Sydney Bristow this past Saturday.
I even, briefly, considered wearing a crop top. Yep. Talk about letting things happen… I was at Target (because I’m a 20-something white girl and it was Friday), looking for fake leather pants to get over my hips for the part, and came across a long sleeve crop top and thought, “well…I work out…”
Listen. To each their own, but this almost-thirty year old should never wear a crop top. It was not a good look. On my best days—on my 19-year old days—crop tops were not made for me. Not even pretending to be someone else, they weren’t made for me.
I settled for $17 jeans that compressed most of my stomach, a more-pink-than-red-wig, and a sweatshirt I already owned, strategically pinned shorter two expose two innocuous-enough centimeters of pale flesh. Because, the 90s.
(Alias was actually on in the 00s, but that’s less satisfying to say, and I’m not actually sure how you say that out loud…the early two-thousands? The double-os? That’s a lot of syllables.)
At the party I went to, there were moments that I really embraced my Alias persona. I walked like I knew where I was going when I very much did not know where I was going (as in life). And I noticed I walked taller, more confidently than is normally my stride. I even quelled my anxiety (for a time) in a people-packed room as my mind kept tapping me on the shoulder asking, “What if there’s a fire? There are too many people for this room…Where are your exits? What if someone were to start shooting? There’s no where to go…”
Most of the time, however, I found it hard to lean into the persona. (It didn’t help that everyone thought I was Black Widow—although still super cool and maybe I should have been her—including one dude who repeatedly told me that he was way too young to know what Alias was.)
It’s not that I’m old—I AM NOT OLD—but it does seem that I’ve lost the youngness of my perspective on a lot of things. Maybe that’s aging, maybe that’s experience, or maybe it’s the crushing time it feels like we live in. And maybe the lost of naivety is not something to mourn, but rather something to lean into?
I don’t know. What I do know is that I don’t believe I can be someone else anymore. Or, maybe it’s that I’m realizing I’m not the someone else I always believed myself to be. I’m settling into who I’ve learned I am–a bit of anxiety, very introverted, lots of unrealistic expectations of time management, and a little lost as to what’s next. Oh. And I have all the feelings all the time.
And so to play pretend…well, why?
Let me come at it from this way. Halloween doesn’t feel so occasional anymore. It was momentous as a child. Something to look forward to for months. (This was, in part, due to my momma’s mad costume-making skills. You better believe my 1996 Jasmine will be a part of my next book somehow.)
But now, we’re kind of pretending every day. I’m thinking about our online lives—my own very transparent persona that is edited and masked with filters, selling a version of a life I only occasionally inhabit. It’s like we’re all projecting holograms of ourselves, created by the overlap of a Venn diagram of who we want to be, who we actually are, and what we believe we can sell the world, maybe even to ourselves.
But in person? In person we struggle to make eye contact or return voicemails or keep any kind of commitment. Online we are perfect, we are opinionated, we are often bullies. In person, well…in person, some are still those things, but you take my point.
It’s weird, no? It’s Halloween every single day, no?
This isn’t news. And it’s not an indictment on anyone except perhaps myself. I’ve begun to wonder if what I put out into the world—in writing and otherwise—is nothing more than an almost-30 year old staring into a Target mirror, wondering if she can pull off a crop top, the mirror staring back, hands on its hips, head cocked to the side saying, “Oh honey. Bless. Your. Heart.”
As I dig deeper into myself and the year 1996 for the project I’ve named Book3by30, I’m looking into my fears and idiosyncrasies and who I really am at the heart of things. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but also a five-stars, would-recommend process.
Halloween is fun. Being Alias and mistaken for Black Widow was quite an ego stroke. But I’m here to tell you that at every party, I’m thinking about fire, wondering if I’m safe, and planning my exit.
Maybe that’s smart. Maybe that’s really sad. Mostly though, it’s the starting point for my next book.
Stay tuned. And don’t forget to vote.
Michelle Junot is a writer, graphic designer, and copy editor. She is the author of Notes From My Phone* a self-portrait in her twenties, and of and the floor was always lava, a collection of essays exploring childhood and memory.
Michelle earned her M.F.A in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from University of Baltimore and her B.A. in Communication and Dance from Centenary College of Louisiana.