This I Believe

Leah - Western Springs, Illinois
Entered on October 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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I believe in stuffed animals. This statement may sound childish to those who hear it, but these plush toys have proved to be some of the most comforting possessions in my life. Since I was a toddler I had a collection of stuffed animals in my bed every night, including a large Dalmatian, a fat cat, and even a handsome platypus. I would talk to them before I fell asleep, and up until just several years ago, they would talk back. In my mind they were the closest friends I could have, since of course I was the one who provided the voices and gave them any characteristics I pleased. And, consider, stuffed animals will never judge you, stab you in the back, or reveal any of your secrets to nosy neighbors.

Starting in early elementary school, however, my life began to change. I was no longer the dimple-cheeked five-year-old playing on the swings all day long. School, formerly a place for coloring inside the lines and learning the alphabet, evolved into a location with actual work and new kids to get along with. Suddenly people were making fun of me and questioning me about my differences in religion, mannerisms, and even the foreign, organic food that I brought to lunch. I had trouble making friends because I was so shy, and when I did make them I was never sure if they truly liked me. Those years in elementary school were some of the hardest ones of my life, and during that time my self-esteem plummeted; even today it is a difficult period to talk about with others. This marked the time when I looked to my stuffed animals for relief and support.

When I was seven or eight years old, my mom and I visited Santa’s Village, a little theme park for young children, while my sister was away at camp. Early on in the trip I won a large, green, stuffed dog from a game booth, and I vividly remember how I carried it around with a smile on my face, knowing I had yet another friend to bring home. I named the dog Mossy; it seemed to fit with her unnatural green color. From that day on I spoke with her on a regular basis, knowing that our “conversations” were real only to me. I would ask her about specific choices I needed to make or why a certain thing had happened that day. Only now, in retrospect, do I realize that those experiences affected the way I lived my life: Mossy and the rest of my inanimate companions acted as my conscience. It is quite silly to think about unless you realize that, in asking them for guidance, you are making your own decisions based on how you feel.

Today as a high school student I no longer speak to my toys because I have obviously found more productive ways to reflect on my actions, but once in a while I experience the temptation to confide in them. Whenever I feel lonely, depressed, or confused with the aspects of life, I think of all the comfort my stuffed animals have provided for me throughout my years of childhood. I still struggle daily with the respect I have for myself, and I still manage to get myself into very unpleasant situations. Despite all of this, I know that, aside from all my family and friends, my stuffed animals will always be there to ensure that I stay true to who I am.