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HALLOWEEN IS NOT SCARY
I've never thought of Halloween as frightening or evil. I was always amused at how threatened Baptist churches were by it, and wondered sometimes if paranormal activity really existed or was the sole stretched imagination of people really looking for it.

Halloween for me was a theatrical thing. Put on a costume, play a part, and get candy if you remember your lines: Trick or treat. Jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and even skeletons did not seem menacing. Their so-called wicked smiles seemed so innocent to me. Even scary movies did not phase me. Startle, yes. But frighten? No, indeed.


See? Too cute, like a tiger or a bear, and too inanimate to be menacing.


As little girl I may have been vulnerable to a variety of threats by nature of my age. Kidnapping, childhood diseases, accidents in automobiles or in the home, drowning, fire, suffocation, and pretty much anything else listed here. These never seemed like real threats to me since none of them actually happened to me personally or anyone I knew except the kidnapping and the girl escaped. It's common to feel a certain immunity to mortality as a young person. If children worried all the time about danger and dying they'd never be able to learn anything or try anything new.

MY BIGGEST FEAR
The biggest threat, which still persists today, is the fear of rejection or abandonment. These are threats experienced early and often. The sinking feeling of your parents driving away while you stare out the window of your kindergarten class. The first time a child gets in a cranky mood and tells another child, "I don't like you, go away." The first time a little boy teases a little girl he likes and says, "Haha, you're ugly!" The first time someone pushes you off of the teeter totter and screams, "MINE!"

While most intentions of children who reject in this manner are innocent and it's just a part of growing up, in a sense it's the basis for someone to learn to care what others think of them. It makes you think you have to change your behavior or looks to stop the teasing, when often the person doing the teasing is just teasing for the sake of teasing. Boredom, boundary pushing, lashing out at anyone who would have asked to play at that moment, etc.

I'm not sure people can dress up as rejection, abandonment, or a bully for Halloween, though.

My biggest fear growing up that I faced daily was rejection, abandonment, or bullying. For a long time my parents' advice was ignore them. To paraphrase Barbara Parks's novel Skinnybones it's hard to ignore someone's knee in your mouth. This is when my mother gave me truly eye-opening advice to aid survival in life if not popularity. This is because my mother is awesome.

"Not everyone in the whole world is going to like you. You're not going to like everyone in the whole world all of the time. The world does not revolve around you. In fact, most people are not going to notice or remember you because there are just too many people in the world. Therefore you may as well be yourself and not care as much what everybody thinks because you cannot completely control that."

What helped cement this in my mind was how my parents could go around always embarrassing me, wearing the clothes they wore, listening to the music they listened to, and dancing the way they danced. In public. Where all my friends could see! Obviously they did not care what anyone thought of them. While I was cringing and hiding in my seat to avoid being seen, they were be-bopping around in the car to The Rolling Stones, pointing their fingers in the air and bobbing their heads in the dorkiest way possible, laughing hysterically as I shoved down in my seat in the truck as if that would make this any less embarrassing. This is apparently a universal thing.

However, soon I realized that the cars we were passing while they were boogeying down to Aerosmith or Rod Stewart were many, going at least 55 mph, and totally not noticing or caring that my parents were enjoying the radio in this bizarre manner. Plus, if they did see us, it was only for a second because soon we were gone!



This was a very big self-esteem builder and my gauge for whether someone was cool in high school. Phony, judgmental people had no place in my life. Silly, loving, free people did.

What my parents neglected to mention is what the real world is really like. For instance, there is a time and place for being yourself. To prepare me for the real world as an adult a few years later, my father took me aside and told me to keep my mouth shut, do what I'm told, and don't fall in love too fast or I would get hurt.

I suppose that was good advice too, but it completely changed my opinion of him and the world around me. I no longer knew what to think. Was I supposed to be myself or not? It seemed like the more I kept my mouth shut, did what I was told, and guarded my heart, the lonelier and sadder I felt.

Then came the internet. What I loved about the internet as a teenager is that for the first time I felt heard. This had both negative and positive connotations. The positive part is that I had a reader base who enjoyed what I had to say, which helped me meet people I otherwise would never have met. The negative connotation is that there were some things I maybe should not say, because anybody could hear them and take them out of context. Also, I never realized how permanent the internet was. Some things, like cyber-bullying, remain permanent because at anytime you can click a link to a page where someone has been cyber-bullied in the past and all of the hurtful words are still there, directed at that person.

So imagine how hurt I was when I read the following words directed at me on a cyber bullying and snark website I refuse to link:

"Now, stop acting like the internet is your soapbox because, honey, nobody is listening. And if they are, it's just like it used to be... they're listening, but only to laugh and wait and see what kind of word vomit spills from your mouth next."

And there it was.

There was my biggest fear realized, that nobody was listening. Nobody cared what I had to say, forever. People were laughing at me, forever. People thought I was a fool or a lol-cow.

Forever. It's there forever. Always.

This wasn't some anonymous jerk who was reading this from a list of things to say when you're in a flame war and want to pwn your opponent. This was someone I knew in real life if only for a second, and then I was supposedly gone. And she "remembered" me from high school. Oddly, what she remembered wasn't true. She told everyone all kinds of weird things about me such as that I had altercations with my classmates, that people thought I was a witch, that I was obnoxious on purpose, that I spoke in a fake accent.

It didn't matter to me or the person who was bullying me that others in that thread came to my defense, or that she was just saying these things to make herself look good.

It didn't matter that these things weren't true.

It didn't matter that I was active in church in high school, that I was nice to everyone, that I had a lot of friends who loved me and love me still, or that my "fake accent" was mostly due to being deaf as a child and years of speech therapy after I regained my hearing and partly due to the fact I have a very large vocabulary.

All it mattered is that it was believable and what I feared to be true. All that mattered was the fear that people didn't like me, the fear the people thought I was weird, the fear that I left that kind of lasting impression when I thought others were too focused on themselves to care what I did, hurt me for years.

For two or three years I didn't talk to any of my friends and hid in my apartment after what this person said to me on the internet. I eventually got therapy, and I eventually got my life back. I'm slowly learning that when people say harsh things, even if there is a bit of truth behind it, it reflects more on them as a person than to who their words are directed.

It's not jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, or goblins that scare me or the rest of the world.

All anyone wants is to be loved and accepted.

Reader, what is your biggest fear?

About


Jen
Hi!. I'm Jen, fiance to Greg, college student, and future crazy cat lady. I love makeovers, decorating, collecting random facts, trivia, playing show and tell, camp movies, shopping, libraries, random singing, random dancing, snuggling, and loafing. Oh, and watching Glee.



Greg
Greg has been my partner in crime for nine years. I've known him since high school; he is my soulmate and best friend. He's an actor, a playwright, a poet and works in data entry. We spend most of our time laughing hysterically. We're thinking about getting married sometime this decade and adopting our first cat sometime in the next few weeks.

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jenmccarroll

May 2012

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