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Circus: The Fragility Of Innocence


It was a hard day. I know that hard days are bound to happen. That life was not meant to be easy or fair for that matter, but that particular day was especially hard. It was the kind of day that doesn’t allow for any light to come through and your soul feels so tired and sick. When I finally had a few minutes to myself, I decided to open my Facebook and just kind of scroll mindlessly for a while. The first thing that I saw was an inspirational quote about positivity and love.

Everywhere you look on social media, you see these inspirational quotes that are usually accompanied by a pretty picture in the rain or maybe a woman in field of wild flowers. I have to admit, I do like those quotes at times and I have posted them to my page. I often wonder if I truly believe the quotes. Everyday would be wonderful if I did. There is one thing that I know for sure, and that is, I very much wish that I could.

I started to wonder why I wanted to believe these quotes that I see every single day. I suppose that part of me wants to believe like a child. A child believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, but as the child ages, they know that these childhood beliefs are nothing more than stories and reality begins to set in. The gritty world that we live in is full of cruelties and injustices. There is war and inhumanity everywhere on this planet, but does that alone cause us to be jaded or is it much more of a personal issue? Is this just what happens to all human beings or is it the people that we encounter throughout our lives that take away the innocence and hope in most of us?

It was a hot summer and I was about 11 years old when I first saw the ad for Ringling Brothers’ Circus on TV. Although now I would never attend the circus because I know of the cruelties done to the animals in it, at the time, I didn’t know any better and wanted to go so badly. My uncle was living with us at the time and I asked him if we could go. He told me that he would get us tickets. Everyday, I would ask about the tickets for the circus and everyday, he would tell me that they will be coming in the mail.

I spent that long, hot summer running to the mailbox and never finding the tickets. The tickets never came and I never went to the circus. My uncle lied to me and I often wondered why he did? Why would he lie to a little girl and make her hopeful for something that he knew would never happen? By the end of that summer, I knew that he had lied. He had no intention of taking me to the circus, but I never said anything to him about it. I felt the pain of losing trust in him because he had lied to me. I started to lose my ready trust in people that summer. I questioned what people told me and I looked for proof of the truth in every situation.

Some people might hear this story and dismiss it as a stupid childhood incident, but to me, the incident was much more than not going to the circus. I was hurt because I was lied to and I lost trust for a person that I honestly loved. After that summer, I started having a reoccurring dream of being on a ledge and trying not to fall to the street. I would wake up with my heart beating so hard that I thought it would just jump out of my chest.

People really have no idea how the things they do and say, can hurt others and the damage does last, sometimes for a lifetime. They might see the incident as insignificant and it is insignificant to them, but to the person that they hurt, it is much more than that.

One late night, as an adult, I was at my apartment with someone that I was seeing at the time. The relationship was just beginning to get serious. I found myself talking about my childhood, even though I really didn’t set out to do that when the evening began a few hours earlier.

I always thought that late nights make people talk more and they end up talking about things that they never had an intention of ever revealing to another person. People are vulnerable at night and they often do and say things that they would never do or say in the daytime. The night makes things easier. The darkness makes things not as harsh. It makes things "softer".

I found myself telling this person my circus story. When I was finished, he laughed and then,gave me a confused look. He asked me why would such a small childhood incident have such a great impact on me? Why it would make me distrustful of people. I told him that it was the first time in my life where I felt a feeling like betrayal. I gave someone that I loved my innocent trust, someone that I loved and thought loved me, and when they let me down by lying, it changed everything. I didn’t feel the easiness that was there before my uncle lied to me. I told him that it was a lie that lasted a whole summer, so it’s something that I never forgot. Something that stayed with me and changed me.

The person I told the story didn’t really understand that incident and I quickly lost interest in him. I felt that he was not sensitive enough and even if he didn’t understand the story, he could at least, have respected my feelings. He could have not laughed and not dismissed the meaning behind the incident from my childhood that taught me a cruel life lesson. The lesson being to not give away my trust as freely as I used to and that even people who love you, can hurt you.

Whenever anyone asked if I was still seeing the person that I told the story to, I never gave them the real reason as to why I stopped seeing him. I was afraid that they would think that my reason was stupid and, that I was a harsh person for breaking up with him over a childhood story. Yet another life lesson was learned, only this time, the lesson was learned in adulthood. The lesson being that not every person can be shared with and not every person will understand and respect your feelings.

I became very careful about late night talks from then on. I suppose there is no one reason why we lose our innocence. The innocence that is very natural and unique to a child, but, also, so very fragile. Of course, I’ve had much worse experiences than what happened the summer I was 11 years, but, I’ve also had experiences that helped me grow and thrive.

Whatever may have happened, I try to never judge another’s life by my own values and what I consider to be important or unimportant. In the end, it is their life, and not mine. Only they know what lifted them and what broke them. I respect that and I hope others feel the same.

© 2021 Johanna Elattar

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