T.O.T.Week: our masks

I recently read a short story where the main character was described as “perpetually in fast forward.” It’s the most apt comparison I can equate to my feelings about this October. My gosh, this was a whirlwind month, and it was all about go, go, go. I turned thirty in a flurry of different celebrations; I prepped and planned and spoke with seventeen families about my plans of support and challenge for their children at school; I traveled across the U.S. for my best friend’s bachelorette party for a less than 48 hour stay; I pushed towards the completion of a large fundraising goal for the nonprofit book festival for which I volunteer; and I also tried to throw in some runs in there as well. Emphasis on try.

I mention these events because as I sat in the airport, pining for sleep, I ran through the busy month in my mind. Honestly, I just kept coming back to… masks. No, this is not a Halloween post, or a COVID post for that matter (though the calendar irony does not escape me). I’m speaking of the metaphorical masks that we place on ourselves given a particular environment, friend group, scenario, etc. It’s the inherent understanding that you might have to bear down and be the ‘fun, carefree, slightly tipsy’ girl at the dinner festivities because everyone else is a bit of a snooze (sorry), and then shift into ‘calm, confident, collected’ leader during a crisis at work the very next morning. In linguistics, the term is called code switching. In samepagebookblog world, I call it exhausting. I would even go so far as to say that sometimes it feels fake. Have I imposed these expectations on myself? Have I chosen to become a chameleon in an attempt to hide different layers at a given moment? Is this an identity crisis? Is this just how I manage to get through a crazy long month?

It’s probably a little bit of everything, but perhaps that’s because we’re constantly revising and reinventing who we are. I’m not going to be too critical of myself for this because I think we all wear different masks. We adapt or read the moments in front of us, and then actively seek who we need to become to get through the day. I think there’s also value in the moments where the mask feels like it is being lifted and you get to uncover the beautiful fragments of you. Auggie Pullman, in the transformative middle grade book Wonder, reflected, “See, I wish everyday could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.” The four characters in these stories hide, expose, lift, and manipulate their proverbial masks in ways that either push them forward, hold them back, or lead them to the many questions I posed above. You might wear a Halloween mask today, but you’ll probably wear some others as well…

A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon (picture book)

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (middle grade book)

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (YA novel)

Everything Is Under Control by Phyllis Grant (adult memoir)

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