If you had been following my Instagram stories over the summer break, there is a good chance you watched our butterflies journey from tiny caterpillars, doubling in size almost daily, to releasing them on a warm sunny day.
Watching them grow became a multiple times a day ritual. The first thing we would do in the morning, was sit around them, marveling at how much they had grown over night, or watching in anticipation hoping to see them break out of their chrysalises. We would then check them multiple times throughout the day to see if there was any noticeable change. I found myself sat up one morning until 2am watching them! It was something that we were all captivated by, and it became a welcome topic of conversation between us all. No matter what our days had been like, it brought us together as a family with a smile on our face.
The more I watched them, the more I was reminded of important life lessons that are easily forgotten. As adults with busy lives and endless responsibilities, we are prone to over complicating things (I am very much guilty of this!), but watching these butterflies grow laid it out simply for me to see.
Here are just a few of the life lessons I was reminded of;
1. Everyday you grow; some days more than others, and all people grow at different rates.
It was truly astonishing to see how quickly each caterpillar grew; from the outside it was undeniable to see. I have no idea if they have any awareness or concept of this, but I could see it. We get caught up in the stresses and busyness of our lives; we focus on the things we are struggling with, the things we keep getting wrong, or the things we feel are out of reach. We rarely focus on our growth, the lessons we learnt from these struggles and how far we have come. Others often see our growth with ease when we don’t.
2. All of our journeys are different; but that’s what makes it exciting.
We live in the age of social media, it is almost impossible to avoid it; naturally, as much as we try not to, we compare our lives to others. We aspire to live more like others (whose lives are usually very well edited!), we want our journey to somewhat resemble theirs. Watching each caterpillar grow really highlighted how different each journey could be, even in a tiny pot full of food. Some had it easier than others, but they were all just as exciting to watch. Your life journey is unique; its yours, no one else gets to have it, and you are the author of that life. Others may appear to have more exciting lives, but the likelihood is that they’re looking right back at your life thinking the same as you! If all our journeys were the same, the world would be a boring and uninspiring place.
3. Life is not a race; so why are you trying to race through it?
When you’re at school, you long for the summer break and the freedom of finishing school/university, moving into adult life. As an adult, you’re racing through to the weekend, your days off, or any vacations you have booked. As a mother, you’re hoping the sleepless nights, explosive nappies, and toddler tantrums will pass quickly. We had the caterpillars in our house for a few weeks; and I would be lying if I didn’t say we felt a little impatient at times hoping they would grow at a quicker rate. But I was reminded very promptly that these phases come and go so quickly; and before we knew it we were releasing five butterflies into the world. The phases we go through in life are the same; before we know it, the years of school we longed to be over have suddenly gone, and we miss the lack of responsibility. The baby who was up most of the night is suddenly packing up their stuff and moving to university. Slow down, enjoy each moment and take from it what you can. Even in the most stressful of times; there is something good to be taken from it, if you only take the time to stop and look.
4. We are all unique; and that is truly beautiful.
OK, so this is a mega cheesy one, but it is so true. We get caught up on our own flaws (I am so guilty of this, and it is something I try to consciously work on). Our differences allow us to be inspired by one another; if we were all the same, dressing and looking the same way, life would be dull. I’m a people watcher when I go out for food or drinks, I love seeing different people’s personalities, fashion choices, hair and make up. I love seeing the unique character in each person; and how they express this outwardly. Each butterfly was different; a different size, broadness, colouring, patterns; but none were less beautiful than the others because of this.
We criticize ourselves so quickly, pointing out our own flaws; yet we are usually very slow to do this to others. We don’t usually see the flaws our friends think they have; which means they likely don’t see the flaws you think you have too. Embrace your uniqueness; it is likely that you’re inspiring somebody, you just don’t know it.
5. Our growth prepares us for something great.
We grew painted lady butterflies who have a very interesting life cycle. They can spend up to 33 days growing, to live for only 2 weeks as a butterfly; most of their life is spent growing. Our lives are like this in many ways; we could state the obvious and say we work and grow for most of our lives, to only retire for a short period of time. But this is applicable to so many more situations in life; as an ex elite gymnast, I trained endless hours, growing, for one short moment. My opportunity to bloom and show the world what I had been working on. It was short lived compared to the journey, but it was always a great moment, even if it didn’t last for long, or go the way I had hoped. Preparation for exams, an interview, sports, or a job you’re in; the journey is usually a lot longer than the moment you’re waiting for, but that journey is needed. The more you go through, the more you’ll grow; the more you grow, the greater the moment.
6/7. Life can have an unexpected twist; and that is what inspired this post.
The best stories usually have multiple plot twists, and this was no exception. It was truly great to watch, and I honestly didn’t know it was possible to be so excited about butterflies!! We had a caterpillar who was a bit of a bully in the group (if you watched my Instagram stories, you would have witnessed this too!). He (you can tell the gender from the body of the butterfly) kept knocking all of the other caterpillars whilst they were in their ‘J’ shape, as if he was trying to knock them down. He eventually knocked one of them off; she was the smallest of the caterpillars, always being a little slower to grow than the others. He quickly hung in his ‘J’ shape and formed his chrysalis. Our littlest caterpillar landed in an awful place in the tub, buried in some food. After a couple of days, she formed her chrysalis; it was malformed and significantly smaller than the others, and incredibly small for her size. It turned an odd colour and began to ooze. We felt she was a goner, we couldn’t see how she could survive this.
We gently transferred them over into their new tent, and waited eagerly for them to break out of their chrysalises. Our bully of the group emerged; and much to our surprise, he was the smallest of the group. Almost 2 days passed and there was no sign of life from our smallest of the group; I was gutted, I had hoped so much that she would somehow against the odd pull through it. I was pouring a drink when I noticed out of the corner of my eye, movement from her chrysalis, she was breaking out! To my absolute delight, she survived, but not only had she survived, she was the largest of the group. Against all odds, after a difficult journey, damaged chrysalis that was deformed, leaking and incredibly small for her size, she was the biggest and strongest of the bunch. I never thought I was actually cheer out loud and punch the air for a butterfly!
The girls named her Matilda (from Roald Dahl’s book of the same name). Their reasoning was that she showed great strength and courage, but mostly that they love that book! It was a very poetic ending to our adventure of growing butterflies; but it reminded me of the most important life lesson there is. Unfortunate things happen in life; it can feel very unfair and leave us completely and utterly defeated; but if you keep your chin up, take a few good deep breaths and continue to push through, you will come out far stronger for it. For those who seem to bully their way through to get to the top, they will eventually come unhinged, and because you worked through the struggles, you will ultimately grow bigger and stronger than they did.
Growing these butterflies was the perfect way for me to take a step back and look at life in a different way. It reminded me of some of the biggest struggles I’ve faced that I never felt would end; and reminded me of how much I grew as a person because of those struggles. I am forever grateful for every difficultly I have ever faced, as I was always taught a very important and valuable life lesson. You grow more when things are tough, then when everything is going swimmingly.
I urge you to sit down and make a list of all of the struggles you faced but got through, even when you felt like it wasn’t possible. Make a list of all the times you grew as a person and how that has helped and shaped who you are now.
I’m thinking of farming ants next!!!
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