There was a girl in my neighborhood who I used to sit next to on the bus. For the longest time, she was the only person I called a friend. We read together a lot. Sometimes we played in the forest behind her house. I wasn’t supposed to go into the forest. Her parents didn’t care. They were drunk most of the time anyways. I remember how upset she was when her hamster died. I was there when she found his corpse. We drifted apart, but kept trying to hold a friendship together. But this isn’t about those stories.
This is about the first moment I realized we were very different people. We were 8, maybe 9 and riding the bus. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“A horse,” she replied.
“A horse trainer? That’s cool.”
“No, just a horse.” She said, not laughing or smiling or anything to indicate it was a joke.
I’m not sure what was my reply after that. I know I didn’t push back too much, because she was my only friend.
I told her I wanted to be an astronaut. See, I had just visited NASA in Houston, and it was my current “realistic” goal. (I know being an astronaut isn’t actually realistic, but it is pretty realistic for a nine year old.)
But I didn’t really want to be an astronaut, that was my current cover story. I dreamed of being an actress or a writer. I wanted to be famous.
Unrealistic goals aren’t uncommon for children. This kid wanted to be a horse! All I wanted was to be a famous person, but I kept that a secret.
That was the day I realized we were different. She was uninhibited, unafraid to express her desires even if it meant she could be ridiculed or misunderstood. Me? I was already repressing myself, hiding away and burying what I wanted. I thought that was the right thing to do. I already believed there was no way I could be myself and be happy simultaneously.