To children, the world is often a place of magic and wonders where any dream can
become a reality. I was the sort of child that believed that anything, literally anything, was
entirely possible, and no amount of persuasion was going to change my mind. Magic, strange
creatures, all of it was as real to me as the less exciting life I lived. All that magic resided in an
alternate reality beyond normal human comprehension, and I would be damned if I was not
beyond normal humans. I was convinced that mermaids existed deep within the undiscovered
depths of the sea, or at least they were smart enough to evade marine scientists up until this
point. Fairies hid within the flowers in my yard, too tiny to see. My stuffed animals only moved
around at night when I was fast asleep, and the monster beneath my bed would only get me if I
let my feet dangle over the edge for too long. No matter how crazy or strange the fantasy, I did
not give up my faith.

The crumble of my unwavering devotion to questionable beings began when my peers
reached the age of true skepticism, about third grade. The Tooth Fairy no longer held the same
weight with them as she did with me. Being ever the scientific child, I went about to prove the
others wrong with cold hard facts. Experiment number one: prove that the Tooth Fairy exists to
take my teeth and give me money. The method: do NOT tell Mom and Dad that I lost a tooth.
So, on the day I lost a tooth at school, I set my plan into action. It was the perfect setup; the tooth was a molar, so my parents would never notice it was even missing, and the packet with my tooth in it was hidden in the secret pocket of my purple butterfly backpack. That night, I set my tooth in my special Tooth Fairy tooth pillow, set that mini pillow under my actual pillow, and I dreamed of the four sparkling quarters I would find in the morning. When I woke up, I found
nothing of the sort. All I found was the molar right where I left it. This very moment planted a
kernel of doubt in me, so I confronted my mom about it. Never had I thrown her for such a loop
before. I do not remember what explanation she gave to smooth over my doubt, but I do know it only partially worked. I was nearly out of teeth, however, so the Tooth Fairy was never as
important to me as the other mystical beings I believed in.

Nothing is more scarring to a stubborn child’s faith than being told that, Santa does not
really exist. In late elementary school, there was always the group of kids who would go around
telling everyone that Santa was fake. Each one of their remarks was a verbal lashing to my heart. I took the abuse though, and for whatever reason, kept my devotion. If there is one thing to be said that has persisted throughout my life, it is my constant resistance to the sway of other people’s unfounded opinions.

When I reached middle school, the anti-Santa campaign was in full swing, especially
once December rolled around. I, however, refused to fall victim to the cruelty of those evil liars.
They had no proof to back their claims. Again, my brain started coming up with ways I could
expose the truth and make believers out of them all. I had read that midnight is the most magical hour, the borderland between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. With a renewed sense of determination, I outlined my next plan of action. Experiment number two: expose the true
existence of Santa Claus to everyone so no one could doubt him ever again. The method: set my alarm for midnight, sneak downstairs, and photograph Santa in the act. Armed with my trusty pink camera and special Christmas socks, I snuck down the steps to obtain my proof. To my surprise, the lights were still on, and my parents were still awake. Drawn to the commotion, I walked around to the kitchen, going through the foyer instead of the living room. I am sure that now, my parents are very thankful for this lapse of judgment on my part. Had I gone through the living room, I would have discovered the true secret of Santa when I saw the mound of presents for me and my brothers hiding behind the kitchen island. The direction I went upheld the illusion enough that my mother was able to force me back to bed by saying that Santa was all-knowing, and he absolutely would not come if I was still awake. Discouraged and hoping my shenanigans had not placed me on a last-minute naughty list, I marched back up the stairs and fell back asleep.

After that incident, I truly began to doubt my persistent faith in things I could not prove
without certainty. Santa’s image wavered in my mind, and only a shrapnel of hope kept me
clinging to my belief that maybe, just maybe, he existed and all that I had experienced so far was just a test. When I hit eighth grade, my parents decided that enough was enough. Up until that point, I had never been blatantly told that Santa was not real, so my remaining thread of belief hung on that fact alone… until my parents snipped the thread and told me, at last, that Santa was not real. The feeling of having my fears confirmed is like nothing I have ever felt before. I felt like a fool for believing in something for so long that was not real, and I was angry with myself for being too stubborn to see the reality laid out in front of me. The magic in my life drained that day, and nothing has ever been as whimsical since.

Faith is something I still struggle with even today. The concept of God, Heaven, and Hell
is just as intangible as my belief in Santa or the Tooth Fairy was. I want to believe that
something lies in wait for me after death. The magic-lover in me wants something to have faith
in, whether it be reincarnation, eternal punishment, or Elysium. I want something to believe in
besides the endless darkness that is so prevalent in modern theories. My dad once explained to
me that faith was just that, faith. Sometimes, we believe in something no matter how outlandish
that something might sound to other people. Proof is not a requirement. There is no obvious proof of intelligent design, only the everlasting belief that it happened and that we will meet our maker again someday. Even though my complete and utter devotion to the truly impossible was misplaced, it ended up being one of the most powerful lessons I would ever learn.

Now, as a young adult taking my first steps on my own, I get to choose what I believe in
and how I want to lead my life. Although faith without irrefutable fact is hard, it is also much
like recovering the magic that was lost to me in my younger years. To think about the end as a
void of nothingness is too depressing; it brings about nothing but a daily fear of dying, and to
live in fear is to not live at all. I must reinforce my faith that my time will come when it comes.
Instead of allowing the bleak reality to dull my perception of life, I allow my faith in something
more to guide me towards happiness and fulfillment. Not everything needs proof to be real, and not every mystery in the world can be proven with cunning and tomfoolery, childish or
otherwise. There will always be those who doubt, but that is where devotion to myself and my
beliefs will persevere. No matter how crazy or strange my beliefs may be, I have to stand by
them, be strong, and have faith.

Camryn Shope is a first-year student in the Capitol Honors College. She is a
biochemistry major from a small town called New Bloomfield in Pennsylvania. She loves
reading, writing, and traveling. Her piece won Best Essay in this issue and it is her first
publication.