For adults who have the luck to exercise significant control over their lives, though, pressure to drop routine and take part in festivals should feel like a bit of an insult. Take me, for example. I chose where to attend college and what classes to take there. I chose to attend medical school. And as a preclinical student, I schedule a big portion of my time. So why should my normal Tuesday night plans be at all less attractive than an arbitrary end-of-October party?
They shouldn’t. Yet, the fact is my October Tuesday evening plans have generally involved studying musculoskeletal anatomy, watching an episode of Poldark while eating chicken, and reading a little nonfiction before I nix the lights at 10.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing all those things, and I love feeling in control over my life. While walking east on McCauley Street last spring, my friend (and fellow medical student), Kevin, and I talked about how life moves so much faster now than it did when we were kids. Before we’d reached the Global Center, we agreed that life sped up when we began to have control over how to spend most of our time — the “time flies when you’re having fun” phenomenon was at work on us.
The problem, then, isn’t that I can’t pick activities that I enjoy. It’s that I’m bad at rationally planning into my life the complex rhythm of work, socializing and novelty needed for me to thrive long-term. Poldark and poultry is a damn fine schedule for most Tuesday nights, sure, but sometimes I need society to burst into my living room with giant cue cards that say: “Go put on green make-up and goblin ears. Get reasonably sloshed. Hit the town with friends (and 25,000 other wildly-dressed people).”
Vibrant community festivals, like Halloween in Chapel Hill, are some of those strange cues. They remind me, and those like me, that we need others not just as individual companions but also — sometimes — as throngs of costumed crowds. They inform us that taking part in bizarre pseudo-pagan rituals can be the most reasonable thing to do. And they offer us the opportunity to take the most relaxing type of break: a collective one.
Have a weird, and happy, Halloween.