We all know the story of the very hungry caterpillar: a little caterpillar hatches from an egg, eats through the subsequent pages, spins a cocoon, and then after a bit of a nap emerges as a beautiful butterfly. Ahhh, what a nice story. And something we can all aspire to as we make changes in our lives and each seek to transform into a gorgeous winged creature. But I’m here to ruin your childhood memories with the harsh reality that will shatter your dreams: it’s all a FRAUD.
I was reminded by this fact in the recent episode of Great British Bake-Off in which farmer’s daughter Kate babbled on about butterflies’ heads falling off (apologies, I can’t find the exact quote).
So are you ready for the truth?
First of all, the caterpillar (actually a larva) eats and eats until it gets too fat, and moults i.e. sheds its skin. Then it gets too fat again and moults again. It does this five times. In then spins itself into a cocoon or moults into a chrysalis and hangs upside down. So far so consistent with the very hungry caterpillar.
Here comes the science bit – concentrate!*
“… once the larva reaches its final moult and begins its metamorphosis, strange things happen to its body. Cells in the larva’s muscles, gut and salivary glands are digested and act as spare parts for the soon-to-be butterfly. Each cell is programmed to self-destruct through the activation of enzymes called caspases. […]
The caspases tear through the cell’s proteins, releasing prime butterfly-making material.”
Did you get that? The entire larva SELF-DESTRUCTS and becomes larva soup.
So why am I talking about butterfly protein soup? (A new low-carb diet, perhaps?)
Well, we all have this image of a beautiful transformation from lowly crawling caterpillar into beautiful, soaring butterfly – and it’s actually very misleading. When we quit our jobs, or decide to become an entrepreneur, or leave our family and friends to travel the world, we expect to retreat into our cocoon for a few days and then, tada, emerge as a fully transformed creature living a completely different life. It’s just not going to happen.
The reality is that we dissolve into soup. Yes, our parts disintegrate, and everything that was solid and safe crumbles into unrecognisable mush. We question everything, our past and present choices, our identity, our very existence.
And so it is that those of us who quit our jobs to follow our passions or explore the world or find our calling are surprised when we become not a butterfly but a big cocoon full of mush. Protein soup.
But of course there’s a happy ending to this gruesome metamorphosis. That larva protein soup gradually forms the wings, antennae, eyes, etc. that make up the beautiful butterfly that we all know and love. So when we’re ready, we can start to piece the little bits of our life back together again, forming new parts from the old until we’ve eventually achieved that metamorphosis that we were dreaming of in the first place.
So if you’re finding yourself questioning all your choices, doubting things that you thought you were sure of, asking yourself the most basic questions like “who am I?” … then please don’t despair! You just need to readjust your expectations; and have a little patience.
You have all the component parts you need to make that butterfly – and you’ll be bursting out of that cocoon when you’re good and ready.
*Science courtesy of this site. Quote courtesy of L’Oréal.