Most people who don’t understand being nonhuman, think that it works like this: you are 13, 14, 15, and you’re tired of your life. You’re angry at humans, you’re angry at the way the planet is polluted. You want someone to hate and a reason to hate them. You think about all the dragon books you liked to read as a child. You remember the feeling of adventure. “That’s it,” you think. “I must be a dragon, and that’s why the humans hate me! Deep inside, they know I’m better than them!” You feel at peace now, and you begin to build a story in your head about what kind of dragon you are.
Actually, it works like this. Or, it did with one person.
You’re young, very young, and you are confused. You don’t understand the world you live in. Of course, you’re a baby, so, people don’t expect you to understand it. But, you start to do the wrong things, even for a baby. You don’t remember, but your mother tells you, you rejected her as a child. You feel bad, because you love her now, but, you can imagine how it happened.
Your parents buy you a doll. You scream and run away. You think it looks like an alien, an ugly alien. All humans look like aliens, and you don’t know why. They make alien sounds with their mouths and it’s noisy and horrible. They have this horrible white patch around their eyes that makes them look like they’re sick. You avoid mirrors, and you try to avoid thinking how you look like an alien, too. You hate photos of your self, because all you can see is an alien looking at you.
You are supposed to be human, but, you already know that you hate the way they look.
You don’t want to be inside, watching humans on the TV. The TV makes horrible noise just like everyone else, and the inside of the house has bad air. You want to sit on the steps of your house and see the blue sky over your head, listening to the birds chirp in the trees. The sky looks right. You imagine that it will wrap around you like a blanket and take you up, up. The birds sing, and it’s beautiful, not like human singing that makes you scream and cry. It’s the only sound that’s beautiful. They are so beautiful. They are so perfect.
You realise, when you are looking at them, you feel like you are home. You don’t think of it in words like that. You don’t want to use words. Words are bad. They make horrible sounds. But, you start to connect birds in your mind, with the idea of being “home”. Inside the house doesn’t feel like home. You want to be in a nest.
You grow older. You learn to talk, or, you are forced to talk, and, you learn how to use this to get what you want. You learn words like “help”, and “no”, and “bird”. You learn the word “bird”, but you like to say, “pipi”, because it sounds like bird language, like the name a bird would use for a bird, and that feels more right. You can call a dog “wanwan”, because dogs make “wanwan” sounds, so, you can call a bird “pipi”, right? That makes sense. And it’s less like speaking human. Every time you see a bird, you start to say, “pipi”. You pick up the bird toys in the store and hug to them. You try to peck the food off the ground, you’re sad you can’t move your head fast, like chickens do. You make it very clear to your family, you want to be surrounded by birds.
Your parents enjoy it when you’re happy, so you get a lot of bird things. You want to eat food that makes you think of bird food, so you like noodles because they look like worms, and you like nuts, and apples, and like mashed up baby food much longer than you’re “supposed” to eat it because it makes you think of how birds throw up food for the babies. Of course, when you say that, your parents think that sounds disgusting. But, to you, just feels like family.
The bird books are the best things. You can spend hours and hours looking at pictures of birds. You learn a lot of names for birds: spotted woodpecker, flycatcher, grackle, cowbird, crane. Before you go to sleep, you imagine flocks of birds, all the different kinds you know, and you imagine you fly with them, to a land of the birds that exists in your head. You imagine over and over that the birds will reveal your true self, they will invite you as one of them.
You don’t say “pipi” any more, because your brother likes to mock you about how it sounds like “pee-pee”. You try and say, it’s not like that, but you know you can’t argue with him. Arguing makes it worse. But, you still like the word, you just use it in your head.
You wonder what kind of bird. You know what looks wrong, and what looks right, but you can’t work it out. You know you want to be light, light. You’re young, and you like to play pretend just like everyone else, so you like to pretend to be the light birds, the talented birds. You want to be a hummingbird, because they can fly backwards and they are so light, and rainbow colors. But, inside, you know that’s not right. It doesn’t fit, and, it’s important to find the one that fits. Finding something fun, does not make it fit.
When you find out about swans, it’s not all at one time, that you awaken. It’s slow. But, it’s like learning about your self. It’s like finding a box of memories that your future self buried for you, so you could find out who you are. It’s like you grow just by reading, because, things make sense now. You realise you never will be the tiny fast hummingbird, you never will be the bird that weights the same as a ball of yarn. You never will be the most graceful bird, or the most quick bird. But you know who you are, and that is better than anything.
And, the peace in your heart is not because you found a way to make everyone else seem worse than your self. You don’t care about worse or better. You just wanted to fix the thing that always felt like it was in the wrong place, like a puzzle that is made wrong. When you put that together, it’s like letting go a weight that you always were holding, and realise for the first time, what it’s like to have no weights at all. And you realise for the first time, life is right. You’re not trying to fit a box you don’t fit. You can just be you. The swan.