Photo by Noelle Walker

A simple, yet delicate and inspiring feather

A simple, yet delicate and inspiring feather

My name is May, and I envy the birds.

When I was smaller, I would run up to my mom and tell her that I could fly. She would just look down at my light blue eyes with a hint of a smile on her lips and say, “Now May, don’t be silly.” And that would be the end of the discussion.

A few years later, I begged her to hear me out. I begged her to believe me. She didn’t. Instead, she just got angry and yelled at me that it was nonsense and that I should just let it go. She would say that no human could fly, that it was insanity to believe that one could, and with that, she would send me off to my room. I hugged my knees as I sat on my bed trying to hold in all the tears for the rest of the day.

I never mentioned flying after that.

I felt it though, the thought of flying. It rushed through me, and I couldn’t contain it. The feeling, the sense of just knowing that I could fly, never left me.

One time, I had dared to try to fly. I had climbed up on top of the slide at a public playground. After making sure no one was been watching, I crouched down and braced myself. Then I jumped. And I swear, for a split second, I felt the air form around my body and lift me into the air before I had delicately landed on the ground. It left me breathless.

I wanted more.

I needed more.

It became part of my daily thinking. I thought of flying every single second. I imagined spinning so much that the air lifted me up into the sky. I thought of jumping off buildings, only to almost hit the ground a split second before it lifted me higher and higher until I could run my hands through the clouds. I would stare at myself in the mirror and imagine how bird-like I looked with my light blue eyes, the swirls of tiny freckles that swished across my face, and my gleaming blonde hair that seemed to capture the sunlight.

Every morning at school, I would go to my high school’s library and study pictures of butterflies and birds. I would study how their wings worked, and I would memorize the mechanisms and muscles they used to lift themselves off the ground. After all, if something as small as a butterfly could fly, why couldn’t I?

At lunch one day, I sat down with my best friend, Beth.  I was very emotional that day, and I had to just tell someone my secret. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I had debated with myself all day on whether I should tell her or not, but when she sat down next to me and flashed me a smile as she fluffed her curly brown hair, I knew I could do it.

“So, what’s up with you?” she asked. As soon as I heard those words, everything came pouring out of my mouth. She sat there with no emotion on her face as I explained everything. When I was done, she had quietly sat there for a minute.

“Well?” I had asked.

“Flying isn’t possible, you know that right? You’re insane.” She replied with a playful punch to my shoulder and then quickly changed the subject. I think one of the worst things in the world is when nobody believes you.

Eventually my mother and Beth’s words got to me. I stopped going to the library every morning. I stopped going outside unless I absolutely had to. I pulled curtains over my window and I tried to forget about the sky. I made myself unhappy because of other people’s words.

Two months later, we had a guest speaker at school. It was a tall man and his face was lined with wrinkles. He had a golden chain which was clipped on the edge of his black dress pants and disappeared into his pocket, only to reveal a pocket watch when he pulled it out. He also had on a white, long sleeved dress shirt underneath a green vest. And he had a smile that seemed to tell you that everything was going to be okay.

He introduced himself as “Gary Evans” and he was here was to inspire us. I zoned out as I fidgeted in between cramped bodies. I really hated these things. I kept shuffling around until I heard something that caught my attention.

“When I was 15 years old, I let other people run my life. And what I mean by this is that I let other people decide the kind of person I was. I let them decide what I thought. I let them decide if my dreams and my ideas were stupid or not. I let them decide what I should or should not be thinking. I let them decide my happiness.” He paused a minute and took a deep breath. “And I didn’t stop them. I let them influence me. So for one whole year, I was not happy. Sure, I would laugh when everyone else laughed, and I would participate in conversation when it was required, but nothing ever means anything if it’s forced.  Then one day, a thought hit me. This thought changed my life. The thought was ‘Why should I let others define me?’. And that thought led to other thoughts. ‘Why shouldn’t I be happy?’, and then ‘Why should I let their words affect who I am and who I want to become?’” He stopped talking for a minute to let his words sink in. “From that day on, I found new friends. I studied more instead of going to goof off with people I used to call my friends. My dreams spoke to me, and I listened. I became very wealthy and found the love of my life. The reason I’m here today is to tell you to not let other people tell you who you have to be and what you need to believe. You are your own person.” He gave a half smile. “I’m going to leave you with this one question. Are you going to let others determine your happiness? Thank you.”

Applause echoed out as I sat on the bleachers. That man changed my life, and I never even got a chance to thank him.

That same afternoon when I got home, the first thing I did was run to my room. I smiled as I ripped the curtains from the curtain rod. I let the sun warm me and allowed my thoughts engulf the air. I knew I had to do it. I had deprived myself from the sky too long.

The next morning, instead of going to the library, I went to the second story of my school and wondered around until I found the ladder which led to the roof. I put my hand on the rusty metal rung and started climbing. I felt the metal dig into my palms as I raised myself higher and higher. Up and up and up I climbed until I met a latch, which I pushed upward until it slid sideways, leaving a gap wide enough for my body to crawl to the edge of the building.  I hoisted myself upward and then walked to the end of the roof. I looked down and saw specks of green dots that lined themselves around the parking lot. It was so high. I had never felt so free. I had never felt so alive.

Suddenly I knew with every fiber of my being that I could do it. I could jump, and I could fly. I felt it rush in every corner of my body. Flight was a fiery phoenix and it was dying to come out of me. I was no longer going to let other people determine my happiness. I knew I could fly, and if they didn’t believe me, so be it.

I closed my eyes and smiled. Then I stepped over the edge.