When I was little, I loved watching butterflies dance through our garden. They are so fragile, but also beautiful and necessary.
My favorites were the Monarch Butterflies (Danaus Plexippus). Monarch Butterflies are a contradiction in color and pattern. They want to camouflage, but they also want to stand out. They have large, gorgeous wings that look like bright orange stained-glass. And those wings are tipped with black and white polka-dots that match their bodies. They appear stress-free as they hover over flower and plants. It is so calming to observe these magnificent insects.
My grandfather taught me that, in reality, these Butterflies have very tough lives. It’s fall now, and since they can’t survive our cold winters, the strongest Monarchs head south towards Mexico. They travel over 3,000 miles each year because they know that it is just something that they must do.
In the spring, when they return, new Monarchs will be born and quickly grow into caterpillars. Their diet starts out with Milkweed, which is poisonous to most other insects. But these incredible creatures have adapted to eating what others can’t tolerate.
The caterpillars search for safe places to evolve and grow in their chrysalises. Their little homemade shelters. And after a short period of time, what once could only crawl, now flies. I have always been in awe of this miraculous metamorphosis.
Throughout their entire life, Butterflies are vulnerable and are regularly threatened by larger animals and insects. But through all their hardships, the butterflies never stop spreading their wings.
When I was young, I would go out of my way to fit in, it felt safe and comfortable. But my grandfather explained to me that we tend to admire those who stand out; those who make bold statements and show confidence, along with vulnerability. He would say, “It is difficult but rewarding to be the butterfly in a world of moths.”
He explained to me that we are all often impatient and anxious to see what tomorrow will bring. At school, at work, and in our relationships, we are always learning and growing. We must allow ourselves the opportunity to appreciate the unknown, while we crawl and fight for flight.
My grandfather told me that throughout my life I will be in relationships, both personal and professional; relationships where winter will come sooner than I expect. It is then that I would have to learn that it may be best to eat my words, swallow my pride, and sometimes fly away if I ever wanted an opportunity to return.
He said, “Martin when you are older, you’ll make your own chrysalis. You’ll realize that it is up to you to take responsibility and to give yourself opportunities to grow. You will still face bitter winters and unfriendly foes. You will find a way to stand up and stand out. And you will develop the confidence necessary to spread your wings.”
When life scares you, use the butterflies in your stomach as a reminder. There will always be people chasing us and giving us reasons to quit. We are all fragile, but we are also beautiful and necessary. Just keep flying.