StatenImagine the heaviest piece of plastic you’ve ever seen. Feel the claustrophobia set in as you pull it on your face. Come to the realization that each breath will be hot and smothered. This is life under a mask.

In some cultures masks illustrate faithful worship, respect for elders and a devotion to the community. In America, wearing a mask illustrates a form of escapism, a socially acceptable way to actually become someone or something else. The act of covering your face is symbolic, as you jump from one identity to the next, leaving peers only guessing at the true identity behind the mask.

For most teens it’s not Thanksgiving that kicks off the holiday season, but Halloween. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Whoever came up with the modern idea for Halloween is a genius — a holiday where the only purpose is to look awesome and march around the neighborhood in search of free candy. Becoming a princess or a pirate for a day creates a whole lot of fun and memories.

The problem? Being someone you’re not doesn’t just last for a day. Especially during the holidays, putting up a facade on a daily basis is quite common. Doing things you don’t stand for, hanging around people with different morals and faking it so you’ll feel accepted are common pressures most students in West Linn deal with. They hide insecurities, family problems and personal inner beliefs behind a mask, fearing that they won’t be accepted for who they truly are.

If you happen to be at West Linn High School you will see an assortment of different masks. None are colorful or comic and they certainly won’t stand out in a crowd, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do a good job of covering up.

Masks that cover up the strain of holiday expenses.

Masks that cover up inadequate grades.

Masks that cover up the falling short of parental and personal goals.

Masks that cover up stress and sickness.

Masks that cover up relationship scars.

Not every mask will cover negatives. Some choose to hide positive traits in fear of the ridicule they will bring.

Masks that cover up smarts kids — because they have judgmental friends and family members.

Masks that cover up hard work — because people get jealous.

Masks that cover up the craziness of practice schedules and choir concerts — because teenagers tease.

Holding back for the sake of others is really only holding out on yourself. Failing to embrace one’s true identity can be the biggest tragedy high school students face. The only way to grow as people is to value every experience, good or bad, and take away a deeper meaning. No one can see someone’s individuality behind a mask.

We need to stop hiding ourselves and start bettering ourselves. We need to stop hiding behind masks and start living life with abandon. Especially in light of the holiday season, we need to accept each other. Not based on clothes, or electronics or the amount of stupid stuff we have or do, but rather based on who we are once masks are off.

Madison Staten is a sophomore at West Linn High School. She is contributing a regular column to the Tidings this school year.

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