I am the one you come to see. You sit in the stands with your family and await my arrival. When I perform, you are amazed. Your kids laugh and clap at the tricks I do.
I’m sure, to you, I look happy standing next to my smiling handlers. But I’m not. In fact, my life is full of abuse, isolation and terror to make sure you have a good time at the circus.
I am not meant to be under a big top. I am meant to be in my natural habitat with my own kind.
I can not perform the tricks you see without being beaten until my spirit is broken. Only then will I obey any command from a human. Only then will I cower in front of the person that holds the whip.
Hooks, whips and chains are only a few of the many tools they use to make me “understand” what the audience wants to see.
My scars aren’t visible because the humans know where to hurt me. The hooks are forced into the sensitive flesh behind my ears so you never see the wounds they inflict. This is how the humans get me to move into place.
I didn’t ask to be ripped from my mother and sold to the highest bidder. I don’t want to travel around the country in hot trailers with no air conditioning barely hanging on until the next town.
I know my fellow animal performers die too often from living in appalling conditions because, to the humans, we are expendable and giving us a better life will cut into their profits.
My pain is recorded. The training sessions where I’m subjected to agony have been recorded. Please search online and uncover this horrible secret guarded by the circus industry.
I feel just like you and I hurt just like you. I know you don’t understand that you are laughing at my pain. You don’t realize that you are applauding for a trick that almost paralyzed me to learn. But you are. You are buying tickets to my misery.
The passing of a year always leaves me a little sad. It has taken me years to fully understand just why it saddens me. I’m the type of person that needs to know the ‘why’ even when that means I have to dissect my own psyche.
Twenty years ago, the passage meant that I didn’t have anywhere to party on that night. I have never been much of a partygoer to start with and the added pressure of NYE was too much. Yes, I am aware at how terrible those two sentences are. As the years past, I realized that the end of the year signified what I didn’t do with my time on Earth. Then, the period between Christmas and New Year’s became one of existential searching which ultimately ended in regret and disappointment.
This does not even take into account the resolutions that we make. How many times have we started something just to end it and add to the stress we are already dealing with? Though, I did quit smoking cigarettes as part of a New Year’s resolution and have been happily smoke free ever since, but I digress.
I started to like this time of year by accident. It happened a few years ago, when I was once again dreading the night and the ball drop. I began to make a list of all the things I did during the year. I started the exercise being angry. I think I did it to show myself that another year had passed and I did nothing and I should be ashamed. Again, I am aware at how terrible that sentence is. I slowly realized instead that when I stopped putting so much stress on myself and became happy with my accomplishments in general, my year was pretty alright.
So now, that’s what I do. I know it sounds cheesy as hell but it works. I make sure that I go through the year and make mental notes of the accomplishments I’m proud of. And you know what? If you think you don’t have any accomplishments, then find them. Did you come home each night to a family that was happy to see you? Accomplishment! Were you nicer to the checkout girl than she was to you? Accomplishment! They don’t have to be big to be effective.
I’m not stating that my holiday depression is cured. But, it has made me try a little harder during the year to make sure my future self has a good list to compile on December 31st.