by T.J. Grayson

My interest started at a young age. Like most children, I went through a phase in early elementary school where rambunctious puppies and mischievous kittens were the most enticing creatures on earth; their big round eyes, soft warm fur, and playful, naïve nature were enough to keep any child captivated for hours.
For many kids my age, this interest faded. Things such as mindless games and super heroes continuously climbed the interest hierarchy, and I could not understand why. I saw animals as the real super heroes.
If I wanted to fantasize about soaring across clear blue skies, I would not flip through the pages of a comic book, but instead track down blue jays through the eyes of binoculars; if I wanted to learn about masters of disguise, I would rather witness the camouflage techniques of an octopus than the costume changes of an actor.
However, at the time, I did not see this passion as a learning opportunity that would fill the small amount of time between schoolwork. I preferred to look at my hours spent reading books on mammals and watching ‘Animal Planet’ as a hobby, one that not only brought me to the deepest seas, the highest mountains, and all other terrains across the world, but also closer to the family that I would soon meet for the first time.
When I was five-years-old my mother received a letter from her biological parents who gave her away as soon as she was born.
Because of this news, my family and I would fly across the country so that we would have the opportunity to connect with people I had never met in my life.
I went into the experience with caution; I already had a family that I cared for, that I loved, how was I expected to bond with a group of people the same way, when I did not even know they existed until this point?
And yet, the minute I walked through the doors of their spacious Pennsylvania cottage, all of the pessimism and doubt that clouded my expectations vanished.
Meeting me at the entrance was not simply a loving family waiting to compensate for lost time, but a sea of animals yearning for attention. I soon found out that my grandparents had been rescuing and finding homes for cats and dogs all their lives, gaining a household of animals in the process.
This made things easy; in the first few seconds of meeting my new family I had already been given a foundation upon which we would have the opportunity to build a long-lasting relationship. My memories of my trips to Pennsylvania were filled with nights spent fishing for cat fish and wading for craw dads rather than awkward conversations meant to ‘break the ice.’
It was because of my passion that I felt as though no time was spent apart, and it was because of moments like these that I know to look for connections with the people I meet. Connections can start something.
Whether it is a new friendship or a family bond, they can serve as the beginning of a newfound relationship.