Do you remember the days when inspirational stories were passed willy-nilly, on an everlasting chain from friend to friend, the “best” ones starting with >> >>> >> >>> >> >>?
(I have a folder where I kept every one. I also spent a few days one summer deleting every “>”, until my dad taught me about “Find and Replace,” but that’s another story.)
This one has been a particular inspiration to me lately:
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.
Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and it could go no further.
So the man decided to help the butterfly. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.
The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
See, I am the butterfly. And grad school is the cocoon.
I’m struggling, struggling, struggling to get out. And some days I’d really like for the cocoon to be cut open – just a little bit wider. But that wouldn’t do the trick, would it?
I’m reminded of my mother’s favorite quote from The Producers: “Why you miserable, cowardly, wretched little caterpillar! Don’t you ever want to become a butterfly?”
And it turns out that struggling is a part of the process.
Even though it’s annoying and difficult that there’s very little direction for this path through grad school, it’s forcing me to grow wings! Every effort I make at finding my own way makes me more able to do so down the road. Every time I struggle through planning what to say at a meeting, it gets easier. Every experiment that fails teaches me how to do the next one better.
Each struggle makes it possible for me to fly!