I must have been about 18 months old, when my Mama said, “Baby, I wish you’d start walking already!” Her friends would take their turn, one by one, they’d try to teach me, holding my hand, pulling me up on my tiny feet, willing me to stand and take a step forward. Someone would say, “Look baby girl, that boy started walking two months ago, and he’s about your age.” After a while, another would try to motivate me with stories of how every other child on the block is dawdling down the street and it is so simple. All I had to do was try.

I might have tried a little harder, but you see, I didn’t understand what they were saying to me. I was nearly 2, and at the time, I had just discovered I could talk and was too busy with words to worry about having to walk. I was always trying to get Mama’s attention so she’d see, that my feet were too tiny to carry chubby me. It felt like I was on jelly the first time. I held on as tight as I could to Mama’s hands. I was praying to Mama to not let me go, and she didn’t, I guessed she knew. Mothers they always know, don’t they?

All day I’d try to listen to the sounds, remember and repeat so I can speak to Mama now. I wanted to tell her not to put me back on my feet, that I’m not ready for all that “Walk baby, and I’ll give you a treat.” I wished she’d look into my eyes and see, frantically pleading to stop pressuring her baby – me! But that’s how it starts I guess for everyone, the parental pressure, peer pressure and more to come.

I must have been 18 years old, when my Nana said, “Darling, I wish you’d go to work already!” Her friends were boasting about their own grandchildren harvested by the ITs or shipped away to be farmed at the Ivies. Now it wasn’t just her anymore, the whole family, friends and neighborhood sang along. The same old tune I’d grown listening to, “Darling, why can’t you be more like him or her?”

I wasn’t as helpless as I was before. I could talk to Mama, bared my heart in front of her. Unfortunately, she had lost sight of her own self, even her baby in the race. To become like another, she’d lost herself in the maze.

I had tried before to do like everyone said, but it’s just not me and it’s never been something I could take quietly to bed. So I took those lessons I learnt when I was 2, took many steps forward and away, from the ones who say, “Why can’t you more like them and a little less YOU?”