Grown Up at Eight: A Short Childhood

“I want to move into an apartment because I can make friends there!” I said excitedly as we passed by a large, two-story building.

It was difficult to ignore the smiles and laughter as siblings and friends– kids my age– crowded the sidewalk after school. As an only child, I desperately wished to be like the other children in the neighborhood.

Within two years, that dream came true and it wasn’t what I had expected. Mom and I moved out of our three-bedroom house to a single-bedroom apartment.

I regret what I had said instantly. I miss watching TV on the brown living room carpet and running from there out to the vegetable patch in the front yard. I also miss eating ice-cream with mom under the cool summer breeze. Most importantly, I miss having freedom and a roof over our heads to call our own.

Sacrificing all of that, mom worked long shifts at the salon and resumed the rest of her day helping me with homework. I was too young without anyone else to watch over me, so mom often picked me up from school and brought me to the salon.

It was hard on her, of course, and I am thankful for everything she has done for me. I knew she was a wonderful mom even at that age.

Meanwhile, this was also when I began to hide a lot about myself. Because I was out in public, whatever I said and did became my sole responsibility.

I had to be on my best behavior in front of mom’s clients, who occasionally brought their children over to play. Of course, it also hindered my ability to socialize among my peers.

I never truly fit in. I still don’t.

Because of the environment I was raised in, I’ve lived more than one-third of my life behind a mask. I fear failure and I am afraid to disappoint my mom, who means the world to me. After all, I am her hopes and dreams– the one she has to rely on.

I’ve forgotten how to feel a wide range of emotions and I sometimes don’t know how to think for myself. All of these things are partially why I feel really anxious often– if not daily.

As a woman in her mid-20’s, I share a lot more common with friends ten years older than me. I’ve yet to enter the world and I’m already thinking about settling down and being able to afford a house.

I know these are material things that will allow us to be a little more comfortable, but they are part of a bigger dream. I think I’m starting to figure out what happiness means…

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