My Nights of Black Cat Freedom
Recently, someone (I assume jokingly) asked me what I was going to be for Halloween. I reflexively answered, “A black cat.”
That’s because, as a little girl, I was always a black cat for Halloween. Year after year, I would break out the black leotard and tights, draw on the whiskers, and put on the handmade tail and black cat hood my mom had stitched together.
My brother, meanwhile, was always a devil, with a similarly handmade devil hood and tail.
Sure, we would have loved to have been something else (I had my eye on one of those boxed costumes with the flame-retardant dresses and plastic masks), but my brother and I went with the flow and dutifully put on the black cat and devil costumes, time and again, because we knew what lie at the end of the costume ritual: a few hours of sweet, sweet freedom.
Ours was a strict home with rules and curfews. But Halloween was the exception. For that one night a year, our parents, for reasons I can only speculate, set us loose in our Long Island neighborhood, to roam the streets and demand candy from neighbors.
I can still vividly remember those nights. The smell of wood-burning fireplaces, glowing pumpkins on porches, throngs of kids running from yard to yard, parents of the littlest kids visiting on sidewalks, trading candy with my friends – it was enchanting, and well worth the price of being, yet again, a black cat.
Always, a black cat.
That experience taught me an important concept that has helped me cope over the years: life is full of little trade-offs.
I may have had to wear a black cat costume, but in return, I got a few hours of ridiculous, reckless freedom (and a bag of candy to show for it). The novelty and the excitement of the evening never wore off.
There have been other trade-offs, and all of them, just like my black cat costume, have been worth it.
I may have had to work weekends in my career, but I made partner at my firm and went about figuring out how to build a law practice which eventually gave me the autonomy to have more control over my time later in my career.
I may have had to endure a few difficult years, but those years made me stronger, more resilient, and more appreciative of the great things and people I now have in my life.
“Life is full of little trade-offs” is an all-purpose mantra, and it’s helped me gain perspective countless times. Ours is a messy universe, and life is almost never perfect.
But even at its most, black-cat costume imperfect, I can almost always find the “freedom-and-candy” payoff that makes it worth it.