A Pig in the Suburbs: How I Found My Normal

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Amethyst O'Connell
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Once in awhile, on a chilly morning waiting for the bus to school, I would be greeted by a fluffy companion, my neighbor’s cat. My dad is allergic to cats, therefore we never had a “typical American pet”. I sometimes envied my friends’ playful dogs or cuddly cats. However, it’s not that I didn’t have a pet – I had one pet and it was Wilbur – a pig. A hypoallergenic potbellied pig. Having Wilbur was strange, and it was almost worse than having no pets at all! Wilbur wasn’t the type of pet that I could show off to my normal suburban peers. Wilbur was a pig in the suburbs. However, what I learned from him was far more meaningful.

A Not-So-Normal Pet

At first, I hated Wilbur. Partly because he was much larger than I was for most of my primary school days. I remember hanging out with my friends in the backyard, and Wilbur barreling up to me and knocking me over. Mostly though, I hated Wilbur because Wilbur was different. Wilbur stuck out like a flamethrower in a snowstorm. When I told my peers about Wilbur, their first reaction was usually disbelief. “You’re lying!” they would say with conviction. After I would show them pictures, they would usually follow the Kübler-Ross model of grief, as if a pig were as awful of an occurrence as the death of a loved one. Why couldn’t I have a normal pet like everyone else?

Finding my “normal”

I desperately chased trends to make up for what I viewed as my lack of “normal”. But then I began to realize that “normal” is a vague and unattainable construct. For instance, I was very noteworthy in middle and high school for wearing pajamas to class. Why not wear pajamas to class? Nobody could answer that question. Why not have a pig in the suburbs? My pajamas habit allowed me to get about an hour more of sleep than my peers, because I wasn’t waking up earlier in the morning to pick my outfit. This allowed me to accomplish slightly more things than my peers. I was elected as a board member of the National Youth Rights Association. I was also involved in countless clubs, including a club at a public access TV station where I learned how to operate cameras and later got an internship. Another favorite club was FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a robotics club where we built robots for competition.

I blamed Wilbur, for what in hindsight, is true of us all. We are all different. We all have a pig in the suburbs. Mine was just literal.

Why not be a pig in the suburbs?

It’s been years since Wilbur’s death (and no, we did not make him into bacon). I think the biggest thing that Wilbur gave me was my freedom to be true to my heart. I was so jealous of my peers that I didn’t realize what a wonderful pig I had until it was too late. It’s quite ironic that Wilbur was named for the pig in Charlotte’s Web, a pig trying so hard to not be eaten, only to realize the value in who they are inside. We have one life to live, so why not be a pig in the suburbs? Embrace your differences, and cherish every opportunity life gives you.

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