I keep seeing dead birds when I walk to school


When I first saw a dead bird on the way to school, it lay crumpled in the crosswalk. It was all mangled flesh, bone, and feather. Its carrion body (at least what was left of it) was ready for its crow brethren to eat in some crude, distant form of cannibalism.

I almost stepped on it as I walked. Almost.

But the disrespect to that broken corpse would be too much to bear. It was already unrecognizable as is.

I hoped the little bird did not feel pain when the car ran it over. I hoped it would not feel pain as it rotted in the hazy June sun. It should have been gliding in the sky. Some naïve part deep inside me hoped that the bird would spring up from the dead, bones mending together, wings unbroken and full. I hoped it would fly away like it hadn’t just had its guts all over the concrete.

I kept walking. I went to my classes and went home and the bird remained dead in that crosswalk, its lovely feathers stained red with blood. 

It’s ironic that I keep finding dead birds like that when I walk to school. The dead bird has become an omen to me because I feel just as mangled and dead as that bird when I am confined to the cage of a classroom. And like the bird, I’ve been run over so many times by a system that does not care for me. A system that punished me for a disability I could not control. A system hellbent on beating productivity and obedience into its students. I wish I could spread my wings and fly, but they were broken and useless before I could even graduate elementary school.

As an autistic person, my school career has been nothing short of hellish. I grew up dreading each day I went to school. I grew up doubting and belittling myself. I feared the report card that came home twice a year instead of fearing the monster under the bed. My brain is wired differently than my peers, and I have always struggled with finding ways to relate to them. I struggled with depression since elementary school because of it. My teachers did not understand, and instead punished me for what they thought was laziness and disobedience. I lost the motivation to do well in school, because I realized very early on that I was unable to do so under a system that drowned my strengths and amplified my weaknesses.

The only thing school has taught me is how to hate myself. I spent so many years struggling, alone with no explanation as to why I felt the way I did. It pains me to think about how much better things would have been if I had access to the resources I needed. 

I’m still learning how to heal myself. I’m still learning how to preen my feathers and spread my wings. I still struggle immensely, but I have a plethora of coping strategies in my toolbelt. I’m trying to be kinder to myself. I’m trying to remind myself that my self-worth isn’t determined by my performance in school. I am brilliant, creative, and imaginative. I am still in one piece. I survived.

So maybe one day, when the tire tracks fade and the roads begin to crack, my wings will finally heal, and I will soar through the sky, unbroken and free.