Mr. Toombs, my fourth grade teacher, had decided that our class was going to raise butterflies as a science project. We watched our caterpillars eat, grow, wrap themselves up in their cocooned world and emerge triumphant; there was a sense of satisfaction at watching something ugly turn into something so beautiful. We had already released two of the three we had raised and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of the last one of our “pets”. We waited. And waited. There was a small crack in the cocoon and we could see movement coming from the inside if we watched closely but after 3 days, we were staring to get impatient. One of the boys in my class, Chaz, decided to help out our little friend and with the support of the rest of us he swiped an exato knife from the desk of our teacher and carefully, oh so carefully, enlarged the opening so as to assist the butterfly’s entrance to the world. The next morning we arrived in class to find our butterfly, the last butterfly, the butterfly we had named, and fed and loved, lying on the bottom of the jar, it’s wings folded, crumpled and wet. Dead. Our teacher, wise man that he was, examined the cocoon and corpse and knew at once what we had done.

He sat us down and asked if we knew why our butterfly had died. I remember Chaz tearfully raising his hand and sobbing that he had killed it with the knife. Yes, yes, we all said, but we were only trying to help!
I will never forget Mr. Toombs, or the smile he had as he quietly explained to us that no, we had not killed the butterfly….but we hadn’t helped it live either. You see, he said softly, the butterfly inside the cocoon has to work very hard to get out, struggle for a long time and use it’s wings and body to make the opening and work it’s way out. It can take a long time, or a shorter time, depending on the butterfly, because they’re all different...just like us. You all thought you were helping it by making the opening larger, he said, but the butterfly wasn’t ready to come out yet. Its wings weren’t strong enough, it hadn’t struggled hard enough. That was something it needed to go through in order for it to survive.
Sometimes, he said to a classroom of 8 year-olds, there are things in life that we have to work hard at, things that are going to be struggles for us to get through and we’re going to wish that someone would come along and help us get out of the mess that we have found ourselves in. But it’s the struggle that makes you strong enough to survive once you find your way out, however long it takes you. It’s the struggle that gives you the strength to fly.
I’m not sure if Mr. Toombs had any idea the impact his impromptu lesson would have on me, or if that day affected anyone else in that class in the same manner. But it stuck with me, from that day on. And it has hit me, time and time again, how very wise the words he spoke were.

I am coming to the end of a huge chapter this August. For the first time in my life I feel older. Not in the worn-out weary way, in fact, I am hard-pressed to recall a time in my life I’ve ever felt quite so ready to take on whatever the universe decides to throw my way. The past 2 years have been a struggle for me, in so many ways, for so many reasons. They have not been without joy; they have not been without pain. I said goodbye to my life in Canada and moved across an ocean. I worked and lived in a foreign country, not just a traveler passing through, but as a living, breathing, contributing member of a society that I can categorically say, is effing insane. I chose to work with large groups of children and teenagers, engage them, interact with and affect. It’s been a two way street in that regard, and is one of the many ways the past two years have forever changed me. I have lived while carrying all my worldly possessions on my back, traveling through some of the most devastatingly beautiful places, I have ever, will ever see. From the beaches of Kho Phi Phi, to the Killing Fields and back again. From the temples in Kyoto to the majesty of Bayon, the devastating poverty in Phnom Pen to the sheer excess of Tokyo, sunbathing on the beaches of Kho Samet, soaked in salt water, sunshine and watermelon. Deep fried tarantulas on the side of the road in Cambodia, the smell of stewed silkworm larvae permeating the streets of Seoul. Korean teahouses and Beer Laos. This cornucopia of unending images, feelings, smells, and memories.
And the reality of saying goodbye to the person I shared so much of that with, and acknowledging the impact of that. Trying to honor what was shared while walking away. Closing that door firmly, and turning around to open the window of new possibilities, watching and feeling relationships change and praying that in the end, he’ll still be there, in a different way, in a way that’s better for both of us.
I am forever changed.

Someone wiser then I once told me that most things in life worth having will take twice as long to happen as you think they should and be twice as hard as you think they would ever be. It’s been a struggle, but I’m finally feeling as though I’m getting there. Emerging. Delicate and strong. As deep as those blue blue waters…war-torn and in repair….and getting there.

It hurt. A lot. Seems fitting.
I’m almost there. 3 weeks tomorrow, I’ll be flying away.


Vivian said…
Beautiful, beautiful. You're an amazing writer.
beautiful i ABSOLUTELY LOVE!
Rafa e Sofi said…
Hey, great story about the butterfly! And nice tatoo... ;)

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