BY Katie Marshall
I’ve got this thing for Halloween. It’s not just that I celebrate it, or that I decide on my costume by June (at the latest) or even that I’m intrigued by the mystical and even dark but always mysterious magic of the Fall. All of those things are true, absolutely, but the sum of them is so much larger than the parts. I love Halloween. But I don’t just love it in the regular way. I love it in masquerade balls and ghosts coming out to teach lessons and wonderment all around. My love leads to certain expectations that inevitably lead to a letdown. Because even if it is amazing, there is no way that the real Halloween can ever live up to my expectations that my love for the holiday creates. It’s not fair to Halloween, the way I love it.
I say all of this hoping that by addressing this behavior, I can change it. Because I’m having Halloween Feelings about 2016. I’m so excited for 2016. 2015 was great and everything, but 2016 feels like everything I’ve been hoping for. I’m falling headfast and deep into the idea that 2016 will hold a multitude of opportunities for me and everyone I love. 2016 won’t just be a regular year. It will be the year. The one that we look back on fifty years from now and say, ah yes, that was the year everything changed and we became who we were meant to be and we are who we are now – content, successful, and riding our hovercrafts – because of what happened in 2016. I can see 2016 me and she looks good. Real good. I’m so excited for 2016 that the last week of 2015 feels like time spent in a line waiting to get into 2016. Nothing I do out here really matters; I’m just here for whatever is on the other side of those doors.
Excitement is beautiful and anticipation keeps us hungry for what is to come and I am all for looking forward, but I wonder if my utmost optimism in the future may be ruining my present. In fact, I’m thinking that if I am so busy loving the future, I might miss my present.
I can turn just about anything into a metaphor. It is my greatest talent and occasionally my curse. When my best friend told me that her trip home had been “a bumpy flight,” my immediate response was “God, there’s a metaphor.” “Everything’s a metaphor with you,” she responded. She’s not wrong. I’ve got a knack for turning the mundane into meaningful, the everyday into epic. It comes from a few places: 1. A fevered consumption of every book I could get my hands on when I was younger; 2. Being the daughter of a psychologist and a counselor, both of whom encouraged me to go for things with my whole heart and nothing but my whole heart; 3. Some fairly legitimate ADD that manifests itself in detailed daydreams; 4. Seeing David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon Commencement Speech, “This is Water” at a formative time; and 5. A third grade teacher who told me, after reading a poem of mine, “Nice metaphors. I think you found your new hobby.” I’ve compared making my flight on-time to journeying into Mordor and back. I’ve celebrated good parking spots like winning lottery tickets. After realizing that “Kate” and “eight” rhymed as a child, I decided that 8 was my lucky number and to this day I take any 8 – road marker, time of day, number in line – as a sign of good things to come. I’ve called average Tuesday meetings “Amazing” and meant it. Once, I texted my Dad to tell him that I made a goal while playing on a rec soccer league in college. His response was: “Of course you did. Katherine, you are becoming your true self and you are trusting your intuition and you are accomplishing your goals.” Everything is a sign. Everything is a metaphor. Everything is something bigger than what it appears.
It is a fanciful way to live, as though an omniscient narrator in my head knows everything is purposeful, even magical, even if I don’t see it yet. I’ve gotten through some sticky frustrations because I decided in the moment to see them as a lesson, rather than a shitty situation. Every annoying thing was a sign of better things to come. I appreciate and love this about myself, I really do. But I am also starting to see the consequence of expecting every small thing to be a clue on a great big amazing scavenger hunt of life.
There is a magic in seeing the lesson in the middle of a situation, a sort of foresight akin to future telling and wisdom beyond years. But when we decide that things are not just as they are, that they are in fact magnificent and grand and here to teach us something, they can’t actually make the impact they need to make. Requiring things, moments, people, even holidays, to be life-changing in a big way does not allow them to be life-changing in a small way. And if true success is the culmination of small efforts, then I may be missing all of the good stuff while I’m looking around for the great stuff.
I don’t think I will ever be the kind of person to just get a coffee. Some part of me will always believe that something incredible will happen in the coffee shop or maybe on the way to it or on the way back home or because of buying the coffee. I accept this. However, I’m going to work on loving the coffee for what it is, small though it may be. I’m going to work on appreciating today even though I’m so excited for tomorrow. I do not want to spend my 2016 or the days leading up to 2016 or even this moment demanding that the time and space I’m in be magical, or else deemed worthless. There’s got to be an in-between that is still valuable and meaningful, even if I can’t string it into a metaphor. I’m going to work on appreciating what I have in front of me for what it is. But, should something incredible happen along the way… well, I certainly won’t be surprised.