When I was a tadpole, we all swam around together and played together. Every one of us was just learning to wiggle and explore our surroundings. We played together and we all looked almost exactly the same. We were all little bumps with little spindly tails. I belonged.
Then we all began to develop our hindlegs. I was so proud, but I felt left out because most of the others were already developing their forelegs by that time. I was left out of a lot of the games, and I began to see that I was separating from a lot tadpoles who were my friends just yesterday. All of a sudden, we just didn’t have as much in common anymore. I began to wonder if I belonged there at all.
When I was a metamorph, and starting to become an adult, I was a little awkward in my stumpy, almost-frog body. My tail felt awkward on me and I was a little bowlegged. I admired the adult frogs, who could leap high in the air. I wanted to do that. The few tadpoles that stayed my friends turned out to actually be female frogs. I still tried to hang out with them, but they kept secrets from me and didn’t want me in their group. They would kick me back into the water so I wouldn’t hear them talk. But I knew what they were talking about. They were watching the adult frogs, too. They admired them, too. But the girls admired them differently, I guess, so I couldn’t join in. But where did that leave me? Where did I belong?
Finally, I became an adult. I croaked with the rest and I jumped with the rest. We were equals again, but not really. Some jumped higher than others. Some croaked a little softer. But no matter how much I thought I belonged, the real test came during mating season. I saw love all around me, but I was ignored. Even though I was a man, I was smaller than most and my croak was even considered effeminate. I began to resent the friends I’d grown up, how they made me aware of how females feel. I resented my parents, too. Why was I spawned to be this way? Or was it the way I developed? Did something go wrong? No matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t belong.
I began to stay up late at night, listening to the croaking sounds, trying to mimic them. But with all the croaking happening at once, my own voice felt very small. For a while, I just slept all night.
But then, a large storm came. It was so invigorating, I forgot myself and all my troubles. I just kept hopping. I hopped and hopped until I didn’t know where I was and I couldn’t see home anymore. I came to a tiny pond and jumped in before the morning sun came out. It wasn’t long before the locals began to notice me. I introduced myself, and they let me stay, but they were wary of strangers. I scooted around the pond, happy to explore my surroundings, until I saw a lone frog wrapped up in the grass and mud.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hey,” the frog sighed.
“I’m new here.”
“I can see that,” the frog said. “You should leave.”
At first I was sad that frogs could be so cruel no matter where I went, but then I was just angry. “I’m not going anywhere!” I cried. “I know I don’t belong here, but I happen to like it here, so you’ll have to deal with me.”
I was even surprised to here myself say that I enjoyed this place. It hadn’t occurred to me that I would ever be happy again.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” the little frog said. “Everyone here is terrible. They all ignore me. I don’t belong at all. I wish everything was like it used to be…”
I blinked and swallowed. This frog was exactly like me. I had mixed feelings about this. Even though I’d always wanted someone to find someone like me, I found that I really didn’t want that after all. I didn’t want this frog to suffer like I had, to be friendless and alone.
“I don’t belong either,” I said, extending a pad. “Would you like to be friends?”
The little frog looked up at me and slowly emerged from the grasses. After eyeing my pad, the frog extended a pad out to me and we touched.
“I’d like that.”