A fated encounter

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I was never the most interesting or ambitious person. I spend most of my days lost in endless reveries or trying to hone my hobby of freewriting, something I began in 2016. I enjoy reading, playing games, taking care of my pets, and spending time with my family. Talking to others was something I always struggled with and while I have gotten better at socializing with others, even basic conversations can be exhausting. I’m generally withdrawn from social interactions due to my crippling anxiety and scatterbrain tendencies, though it all changed upon one peculiar encounter.

My brother and I have owned pets for practically our entire lives. We have a family dog named Ellie, she’s been with us since I was about five-years-old, some fish, turtles, and tortoises. My brother and I always had a fascination with reptiles, primarily turtles and tortoises. We have about 30 turtles and nine tortoises, most of whom we’ve raised for several years since they were hatchlings.

2020 was the most eventful year of my life; the rise of distance learning, my brother moving out to attend boot camp for the Marine Corps, the beginning of my sophomore year. Not even a month into distance learning and I was dreary.

Near the end of 2019, my brother and I had discovered five Russian tortoise eggs. One egg would survive, the only egg we would bury to incubate naturally as we couldn’t afford a legitimate incubator and our makeshift incubator wouldn’t suffice. Several months passed, we assumed the egg didn’t survive as it was well past the time the egg was supposed to hatch. We eventually forgot about the egg as our lives became busier.

August 28, 2020: It was a sunny Friday afternoon, I already had a quiz for Ms. Canzano’s ¾ English class. She let us complete the quiz at our own pace so I decided to step outside for a quick break. I fed my gluttonous pets and peered into the tortoise pen. As per usual, one of the Russian tortoises had plowed through the yard, leaving behind a trail of dirt and grass. As I began patching the ruins, my hand brushed against something strange. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that it was a tortoise hatchling. On that day, I bestowed the name “Mel” onto the tiny tortoise.

When I found Mel, she still had her egg yolk, indicating that she was only a couple days old. She was the only egg out of five that survived. Mel’s birthday would be set on August 28, 2020, the day I had found her. I was immediately entranced by Mel, enough to distract me from the quiz I had to complete that very day. I may have “failed” that quiz in technicality, but at least I had Mel with me.

I’ve spent the past two years raising Mel alongside my other pets. My overall mental health has improved, I’m somewhat comfortable with social interactions, and I gained some higher sense of responsibility. Somehow one small tortoise changed my life for the better, even better than two years of therapy that was supposed to soothe my anxiety and struggle with socializing. While I’m still not the most social person, I would say I’m getting better. Mel is growing steadily and I couldn’t be happier, an indication of how one encounter can have a significant impact on your life.

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