I woke up on the wrong side of the other day and was grumpy for no particular reason. Actually, it could have been because it was Monday… or because I went away for the weekend and was exhausted from the trip… or because my introvert, who spent a lovely 3.5 days with friends, was screaming for some recovery time. But that’s neither here nor there because the reason isn’t important.
As they often do when I’m in a sour mood, my thoughts and feelings ran amok. I contemplated where I was going with my life, cried because I didn’t know how to get there, and spent a good chunk of time just feeling sorry for myself. I wallowed in self-pity because I felt lost in the world, which of course led me to feeling worthless, vulnerable, confused, and angry because today, my life didn’t look like how I wanted it to. I found myself holding on for dear life as I tried to ward off the existential anxiety attack I felt coming on.
At some point during the day, I started thinking about all the feelings I was experiencing and had a huge insight. I’d been here before – I’d felt lost in the world at other times in my life and had the same feelings of worthlessness, vulnerability, confusion, and anger that my life didn’t look like how I wanted it to.
There was the time I graduated from college with a BFA in dance and absolutely zero work experience, so I took an entry-level administrative job in an industry I didn’t care about and stuck it out for 5 years because I didn’t know I could make a different choice in life.
There was the time I got fired from my job two weeks before I started grad school. And, I had just purchased a brand new car with a lovely monthly payment that I was responsible for.
There was the time I unexpectedly got laid off from my job of 8 years, which was my anchor in life at that point and where I put about 95% of my energy.
Like I said, I’d been here before. Which means I’d come out of it before, too. I had moments in my life when I knew everything was falling apart, and moments when I realized everything would be all right as long as I just kept going.
I call those ‘butterfly moments’. Those times when you feel like your life is over and your world is coming to an end so you might as well give up now. But you don’t. You stick it out, keep pushing forward, and continue putting one foot in front of the other until you break through whatever was holding you back.
Like a caterpillar changing into a butterfly, we go through times of transition in our life. Unlike a caterpillar, we don’t just go through it once. For us, it is cyclical. We start as a caterpillar, munching on leaves and living a pretty small existence. Then when we know we’re ready for something more, we find ourselves in our cocoon – a dark place that is helping us prepare for what is next in life. Next, we break free from the cocoon transformed into a beautiful creature soaring in the sky and letting our wings take us to places we never imagined. And then, because we’re human, we get used to our new world and find that we want more. We go back to munching leaves and living a pretty small existence, until we find ourselves in our cocoon once more… getting ready to transform yet again.
So next time you feel like darkness has fallen or you have lost your way, just remember that you’ve been here before. Think of the most transformational times in your past and see if you can figure out what your greatest butterfly moment is so far. Let the memory of that time guide you and remind you that as long you just keep moving forward, you’ll eventually spread your wings and soar…