By Emily Paruk
Never in my life did I stop once and think, “You know what I would really love to do? Dress in a giant animal costume in front of tons of people, run around hyping up crowds, and dance to hip-hop music.” Yet I did.
One summer, I was hired at a resort to perform in their shows, but part of the deal was that I also had to dress as one of their mascots in their kids performances. I was hesitant at first, but I stuck to my motto of “why not?” and took the job.
Thinking back, I am so glad I made that choice. I can still remember the first time I walked out in front of a crowd in the giant animal suit. I was already sweating buckets, it felt like I was looking through a tube since all my peripheral vision was cut off and I must have looked like the clumsiest person alive with my feet tripping over themselves and my giant head banging into doorways.
Yet, I can still remember the exhilaration of having complete anonymity. It didn’t matter if I rammed into the door; no one knew who I was. They would only laugh at the animal. I was separated from whatever actions I performed. It was a complete sense of freedom.
Surprisingly, some of my favorite memories come from being a mascot, and it’s because when I was in the suit, I wasn’t afraid to be bold and do something crazy. I remember randomly running up to complete strangers to give them high-fives or taking pictures, fooling around with teenagers and doing TikTok dances with them and sliding on stage on my knees holding a guitar and then twirling around on the ground like a crazed electric guitarist.
One day as I was walking around the resort, I passed a group of people playing cornhole. I don’t know what came over me, but all of a sudden I ran over, snatched a bean bag, and tossed it to the other side. It missed the board and I threw my arms up in a frustrated motion, but then the whole group started to cheer me on and I got sucked into their game of cornhole.
When I made a shot where the beanbag landed in the hole, everyone went wild. There were cheers and shouts and I made a victory lap. I threw my arms in the air and ran like crazy, jumping up and down. Never in my life has a little beanbag meant so much.
I had an overwhelming amount of courage that summer within the suit. It was like having a “Freaky Friday” moment with a person who just followed their impulses and wasn’t afraid to draw attention. That summer as a mascot, I got to experience something amazing: the feeling of living life without doubt, regret or fear. And the best part? Some of that courage is still with me today.