In the previous post, Who We Were Meant to Be, I talked about how we should be spending the first part of our lives growing, listening, and learning. We undergo changes, kind of like the stages leading up to a butterfly.
After undergoing metamorphosis, it’s time to figure out who we are.
Each of us was made wonderfully, beautifully, and uniquely.
We are all different. No two people are the same. Even twins are different.
And, we don’t have to be who others expect us to be, and we shouldn’t be.
That doesn’t mean I think we should throw caution to the wind, quit our day jobs, and chase our dreams no matter the cost.
I spent most of my life surrounded by people training to be doctors, engineers, professors, IT or technology-oriented professionals, or people already there — successful individuals by the world’s standards — people making good money, doing things, going places.
So, I became an aberration. I decided to study philosophy. Truth be told, I was already an aberration, long before that. But, that’s another conversation for another time. My occupational pursuits, with a PhD in hand, were limited to teaching. But, getting a decent-paying job in a market with a saturated supply seemed bleak. There was already a large pool of candidates with plenty of teaching experience and noteworthy publications also looking for work. And, we’re in a time in which universities are getting rid of tenure, which means adjuncts are doing the same work for half the pay, without health insurance or other benefits, and no job security.
Back to my point, since having the insatiable impetus to write fiction, I’ve discovered a new love: painting.
The more I’ve written and painted, the more I’ve noticed I gravitate toward vivid colors. It’s interesting, delightful, and adventurous, sometimes more than (ballroom) dancing or rappelling. Doing those activities can be quite exciting, but they are temporary thrills. But, writing and painting offer sustaining joy, a sense of fulfillment. This wonder that we enjoy, finding out about ourselves, is part of our transformation and becoming butterflies.
Lily Chang © 2018
Another important aspect of experiencing a metamorphosis or transformation into a butterfly is that we can discern what we need and what is good for us from what is dangerous for our well being. Butterflies go to a number of substances, including disgusting ones — like dung, blood, or decaying flesh — to puddle and absorb much needed salts, minerals, and amino acids.
The repulsive, despicable dung in my life wasn’t just the resulting crap from being stuck with someone who had forever promised to love but had chosen allegiance with a substance that would take our lives over like an enraged and grotesque Hyde. It also involved surviving and living through the aftershocks and ripple effects after leaving the storm. I learned to find beauty, love, and relating with others while I was still stuck in the rancid mud pit. A doula volunteered to be by my side through the delivery of my twin babies. Though the physical pain of bringing the babies into the world was indescribable and almost unbearable, I was surrounded by people who stood by my side and talked me through the drug-free births. A family adopted us into theirs, so we could be in community with others during holidays, even if I was crying, in despair, and had nothing to say. That is love.
In my own experience, going rappelling and dancing were exhilarating and fun for a short while. I have a fear of heights. And, looking down a 1,000 foot drop just about scared the pee out of me. Traveling only 110 or so feet or being attached to a cable offered little comfort. With only about 40 feet left to go, I was finally practicing the right form, with my legs, my body parallel to the ground. And the rest of the way down was an intense thrill. I did it. I conquered a fear. But, I’m not eager to do it again.
Ballroom dancing was exciting, because it required skill, quickness, working with a partner, and expressing intense emotions through body movement. I’d still do it, if I had the time.
But, writing and painting have stayed with me. I’m thinking about it when I’m driving, talking with friends, working, or resting. I’ve been following painters and writers, eager to learn from them to perfect my own work. I had painted mostly flowers. But then, I worked on an eye. It was challenging but invigorating to capture not only the complicated physical features but to illustrate the personality of the individual behind that eye.
And, now, I’m wanting to paint people, a subject that intimidates me to no end. Many years ago, when I attempted to draw people’s faces, the end result was terrible. It didn’t look anything like the person. In fact, it looked like a warped, messed-up piece of crap. Yet, I want to learn how to skillfully capture personalities and beauty with just a few strokes of color.
Pursuing what is good, for me, involves doing things that help me express who I am, communicate love and passion, and connect with others. Some of those activities include writing and painting.
I cannot not write or paint. Doing those activities is being me. They’re as important to my well-being as eating and sleeping.
Something else happens once we’ve transformed that shouldn’t be brushed to the side or ignored. More on that in the next post. Stay tuned!