FRESHMAN YEAR, the atmosphere filled with nerves for the year to come. The morning wind blew with the anxiety filled air. Anxiety because the students didn’t know what table they would sit at lunch. Anxiety because the students didn’t know who their teachers were. Anxiety because the students didn’t even know who they were.
The girl enters the school shaking, sweating, and nervously trying to control herself. As she walks toward her first class she sees the school as a jungle, the students animals, all making their way through the wild and trying to survive. She realizes soon enough that just like the wild, there were many different animal packs; flocks of birds- flying high above the others, showing off just how easy it is for them to spread their wings. The lion pack, older students who ostentatiously walked around, flaunting their superiority to the little bugs that were the freshman. Amid the bugs were the butterflies, students who already went through their cocoon phase and fluttered their wings all around school. The girl soon realizes she is just a caterpillar surrounded by already blossomed butterflies, waiting to come out of her cocoon already.
The caterpillar timidly, slowly, begrudgingly went through the day, taking in the pervasive smell that was high school. The smell, by the end of the day, had become more relaxed. More relaxed because the bugs finally knew what high school was like. More relaxed because the animals survived one day of high school. More relaxed because the comforting thought of home swept through the animals like a wildfire. Not anxious. Not anxious. Not anxious the caterpillar told herself. She tried to push the giant feeling of nervousness out of her mind, a feeling that had formed because of the encroaching realization that this was going to be every day for the next one hundred and eighty long, meticulous, and anxiety-ridden days. She’d been told it would get better, but she was too anxious to believe it.
Extensive, exhausting, and exciting months went by. Second semester came by and the caterpillar still hadn’t cocooned. During these months, the caterpillar had found her own army of caterpillars. They all grew together, some blossoming before others, and others already blossomed. The “I” in decision making turned to “we” and so the group decided that on one of their precious days off of school, they’d go on a picnic. Despite the caterpillars being a “we” only nine out of the twelve could go. Out of the nine were seven butterflies and two caterpillars and of the three bugs left out, two were beautifully confident butterflies and the other still a caterpillar. The group had meet in a large, green, and well-watered dog park, appropriately coined, “The Green Belt.” Even though they were a “we” they still argued with where to go. Let’s just eat at someone’s house. Said the boy caterpillar.
No. Said the dark and gothic caterpillar, I already said we’re going to the bridge and eating our food there, then we can go back to someone’s house and rest.
The boy caterpillar reluctantly shook his head up and down in agreement with everyone else. Reluctantly because he hadn’t cocooned yet and reluctantly because the dark butterfly had so much ascendency in her voice that he wouldn’t dare argue anymore. The tense walk to the bridge was soon out of mind as they laid their blanket down and began eating. Eating turned to talking and talking turned to walking. Walking and talking. That’s all they did for two hours.
Hey, watch out! There’s cactus spikes littered here.
Don’t poke the snake holes. Why not. Because I said not to.
By the time they left to go home, they had already forgotten about their three friends that couldn’t come along.
The ever-dreaded Monday of next week came along and the army of caterpillars talked of their weekend adventure at lunch. As they all got to their lunch table, the one caterpillar that didn’t go to the picnic wasn’t at the table.
Hey where’s Emily?
I don’t kno- oh wait, she just texted me and said, ‘I’m sitting at another table for today.’
Oh, I wonder why.
The tiring school day ended and the caterpillar went home and decided to play video games. Ping. Ping. Ping. The sound of incessant text messages started filling the caterpillar’s room. She reads the text and feels somberness in the air. She reads the text and feels the sadness from the words. She reads the text and feels the guilt of what could have happened. She reads the text and feels that maybe her game isn’t that important.
I thought she was going to do it.
Kick the bucket.
Her text. The text she sent. It was confusing. I thought she was going to do it, so I called the cops.
Wait, is she okay.
The despondent day continued and turned into the despondent week. No not week, weeks. After weeks of awkwardness and sadness because of what could have happened, Emily decided to leave the group and find a different army somewhere else in the wild that was school. Luckily, she was able to blossom, but the lone girl caterpillar had yet to turn into a butterfly.
Time went by and the end of freshman year had felt like the beginning. Anxiety filled the air again. Anxiety because of finals. Anxiety because of the unknown that would happen during the summer. Anxiety because the caterpillar still hadn’t cocooned.
Finally, as summer slowly creeped forward and the weight of finals laid heavy on her shoulders, the caterpillar started cocooning. Finally started cocooning because the courage had come. Finally started cocooning because she was finally comfortable in her own skin. Finally started cocooning because she now had a pack that would accept her. Finally, the caterpillar cocooned and became the beautiful rainbow butterfly that she knew she always was.