I remember watching a caterpillar go through metamorphosis when I was in second grade. I remember the way the soft, wriggling body of the larvae squirmed and moved along a branch, so exposed and delicate, protected from the rest of the world by a single layer of green mesh. And as its chrysalis formed and hardened around it, I remember thinking how it was completely astonishing how it would emerge as something much more, something entirely different. Can you imagine it? Knowing how to become something so utterly and completely different because it’s in your nature to do so?
Would the world look the same? It is said that after metamorphosis a butterfly is capable of retaining memories from its time as a caterpillar, but I can’t help but wonder if those memories actually mean anything. If your frame of mind has changed, and interests turn to indifference, and indifference to interest, then do your opinions — your truths — change? I don’t like thinking that they do, but life is short and written in water.
I’m starting to distrust everything I’m told.
But saying it speaks doubt into reality, makes the formless mass of thoughts a tangible, oppressive presence. And I like to think I know better than that. So for now, for now I try to keep my distrust to myself. They say experience is the greatest teacher, but at times I feel life is too short to learn only from my mistakes.
Am I supposed to know anything?
I don’t. It’s identity, I think. I am myself and I don’t know myself, so how am I meant to know anything? I think some would excuse me because of my youth, but I wasn’t raised to believe that youth was ever a worthy excuse. It seems that identity is everything, and if you don’t know your identity … Well, ordinary cruelty can be insidious. Still, I can’t help but think identity is a contrived idea, like the measurement of time on a linear system as an abstract concept.
Am I meant to announce my name like it’s my only possession and scream my dreams like I have nothing else to live for? Kinda difficult when I’m unsure of my name and have no dreams to speak of. Who am I? Sometimes I look at the people around me and wonder if their understanding of myself is greater than my own.
Maybe we’re all trapped in this mess together. Because somewhere, somewhere, between adolescence and adulthood, life bites into all of us. It steals our peace when we least expect it, and it hurts. Not badly, not really at all, but in a way that lingers, and in a way that makes it so we can’t pull off its presence with our own nonchalant power.
I wonder if, eventually, everyone I know will become a young and unsure adult, with a hunched back and a hoarse, miserable voice, old enough to know personal responsibility and obligation but not yet trained to carry it. We’d learn, though. The moon against the sun in an eclipse.
My back already hurts and some days I think my eyesight is so bad I feel as if it is already going. I’d like to say I love the world, but at the same time I will never forgive my predecessors and forefathers for this inheritance. Still, I prevail. Resiliency is a matter of perspective, don’t you think?
I think about that caterpillar a lot. I think about how it often seemed so lonely in its enclosure and wonder if it was content being alone. I wonder if it ever had an inkling of the world it lived in or the existential crisis it would create in me ten years later. I wonder if it wanted to become a butterfly and remember how, when it was time to release, it lingered on the end of a wooden pencil’s eraser, seemingly almost unwilling to fly away.
Nicole Bian is a high school senior from Rancho Cucamonga. A collector of fountain pens and glass jars, she remains a voracious reader and enjoys doodling, playing the upright bass and clarinet, and sleeping in her free time. She has a strange fascination with clocks and will never turn down the opportunity to do something dangerous.