Ethan Miles-Jamison

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Ethan+Miles-Jamison

A Dog Named “Normal”

Most people who know me think I am a “normal” teenager that goes to a private school, has a great family, and plays sports. Even though that is all true, I feel far from normal. Normal means different things depending on where you grew up or what you have been taught throughout your life. In my case, normal consists of those things I previously mentioned. What most people do not know is that I do a really good job of hiding the slightly less than normal things in my life.

When I was four years old, my parents divorced not long after my father returned from eighteen months in Iraq. The effects of this have changed who I am. After my mom was single for eight years and not having a father figure in my life, my mother remarried. Over those eight years, I became defensive and protective of my mom so this new man in our life took a while to get used to. Due to the marriage, I had to move houses, move from private school to public school, and faced many challenges as a result of those moves. I then learned I had dyslexia, dysgraphia, and attention-deficit disorder, which made maintaining good grades especially hard. I took this new information along with all the change and retreated into myself thinking it was okay. Society, along with the fatherly figures in my life, told me that men don’t cry, and they don’t share their feelings, so I believed them. Over the next few years many more changes and challenges came my way. I moved back to private school and back to my hometown. Although I returned to the “normal” I once knew, I did not feel like I once did or like I fit in. I tried to find outlets to cope with everything going on around me and inside of me like my stepdad’s negativity and my real dad’s sudden divorce and remarriage. I played games like Minecraft that offered a different reality to retreat to. I listened to music, played sports, and portrayed a normal look to distract myself from the anxiety I was facing in my own head. I learned that these outlets were not always healthy escapes. Although they distracted me, they did not help me with my worsening loneliness and anxiety.

Throughout my life, I have had multiple pets and love animals, but they were always just another chore. One of the good things about my new stepdad was that he had two dogs, Max and Bo. Max and Bo became my best buds through all the changes of a new school, no friends, and a two-hour commute to work. Dogs were no longer a chore to me; they were something that was always there. Dogs will listen to whatever you have to say without telling you that something is wrong with you or that you need to try this solution or that. They always show you love and make you happy no matter how sad you were before. As Max and Bo got older, they became lazy and less interested in me. After all they were not my dogs; they loved their father, my stepfather, who had been with them since they were puppies. I longed for that relationship with a dog who would be mine, loyal to me, and there through everything.

In the tenth grade, after years of suppressing my feelings and practicing unhealthy tactics to distract myself, that longing returned. I begged my mom for a puppy I could call mine, I made a presentation to her, and even saved up the money to pay for one myself. Finally, for my sixteenth birthday, I got my own husky puppy named Koda. He was my comfort throughout everything that was going on. I talked to him about all of my problems and anxiety around school, relationships, and family. I finally had what I wanted, the special connection and experience I imagined. He was there for me through a rough soccer season, my grandmother passing away, and most recently, my mom and stepdad separating. 

The separation is for the best, but it meant another move for me and my family. The sad reality set in that we could not afford a dog where we were moving, and we could not give Koda the life he deserves. I suppressed my sadness just like always and tried to stay strong for my mom. Koda brightened everyday and accepted me for me. That is now lost. It has been many months since I rehomed Koda. Although he went to a great home and is happy, I am not. I long for that feeling again: a dog to be there for me, a dog that relies on me, a dog that eases my fears, anxiety and comforts me.

Throughout my life, I have tried to distract myself from the difficult realities in order to seem normal. I found way more than a distraction in a dog named Koda. He eased my fears and most of all, that it is okay not to be normal. 

Please click on the arrow below to hear Ethan’s Senior Reading.