I am fascinated with the process by which an ordinary caterpillar becomes a magnificent butterfly. It is one of the most spectacular transformations in the natural world. The elegance of the butterfly with its colorful wings and graceful flight lies in stark contrast to its caterpillar predecessor, who did little but crawl around and eat.
I can relate to the caterpillar. I know what it is like to feel small, insignificant, imperfect and ordinary. I often go about my days that are filled with boring, routine tasks, and I long for more excitement – more travel, more noteworthy experience, more influence.
I get lost in the daily grind – the carpools, grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, and other tasks that are required to keep my family on track – and I forget that I, like a caterpillar, am in the process of becoming.
Although I am far from perfect, I am working towards overcoming my weaknesses in order to become something more than I am:
More deliberate and purposeful about my choices
As I work to develop those qualities that will better myself, I will also become a better wife, a better mother, a better teacher (because we are all teachers), and a better friend.
At the end of the day, it does not matter whether our days are filled with exciting, noteworthy events to share with the world, or if we live simple, ordinary lives. The only thing that really matters is what we choose to do with our lives, and who we become as a result of our choices.
The truth is that each one of us is in the process of becoming something with each passing day. Either we are deliberately choosing to grow into the person who we want to become, or we are allowing our circumstances and other outside influences to dictate the kind of person who we will become by default.
It is our choice either way.
I love this poem entitled Invictus, by William Ernest Henley:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The comforting thing is that we can learn from those mistakes, correct them, and allow them to teach us, strengthen us, and aid us in rising above our frailties to become a little bit better today than we were yesterday.
The beauty about this whole process is that, although we are on a quest to become our best selves, perfection is not required. What matters is the direction in which we are heading – so choose your direction wisely, and then cut yourself some slack on the idea of perfection.
And the next time you see someone who looks disheveled and frazzled at the end of a stressful day, hear another speak harshly in a moment of weakness, see a young mother struggling with her kids who are making a scene in public, walk into a friend’s house when it looks like a tornado blew through it, or a host of other things that might highlight the weaknesses of another – remember that we are all in the midst of the glorious, messy, beautiful, imperfect process of becoming.
We may not be butterflies today, but hopefully someday we will fly away with the brilliant new wings that we have worked a lifetime to attain.
Until then, let us take control of our own lives, make deliberate decisions that lead us closer to who we want to become, be a little bit gentler with ourselves and our own imperfections, and work to be more understanding and less judgmental of others who are, like us, ordinary and imperfect caterpillars who are hoping to emerge one day as majestic and breath-taking butterflies.