I grew up in the country. Isolated but protected; sheltered yet alone. The nearest house was a half-mile away. School was at least a thirty minute bus ride. There was a boy my age within walking distance, but we didn’t play together after his parents sent him to private school in third grade. Until I could drive, my parents had control of my contact with the world.
When I realized who I was (what I was) I looked around and realized I was alone. There was no one else that felt like I did. A few understood, maybe even accepted, but that wasn’t enough. If I wanted to be myself, I’d have to go someplace else. At first, I wanted to flee; go out the door and run until I couldn’t see the farms and open fields and small towns anymore. Run until I felt safe. Run until I found someone like me.
As time passed, the panic dimmed. I had to leave, but I could wait until the time was right. When that time came, I put as much distance between myself and the farms and open fields and small towns as I could. Each step of my journey took me farther and farther away from the place I called home. I found others like me along the way and also discovered that despite my fear, I’d never really been alone in the first place.
At the time, I don’t think I could have explained what I was so scared of. Many years and thousands of miles later, I look back at the place where I grew up and realize I wasn’t the only one. But back then, looking out from that small, sheltered place I called home, I could not see how I would ever meet someone else like me if I stayed there.
Now I wonder if by leaving, I’ve ensured that the next person will feel equally alone. I hope not. I hope that the next kid realized he didn’t have to choose between his home and himself. I hope he was smarter, and didn’t let his fear overpower him. I hope the next one broke the cycle and chose to stay as proof to the rest of us that no matter where we are, we are not alone.