Why I strive to be a caterpillar
The effects of toxic relationships on self-love and self-growth, and how we can heal ourselves from breakups by listening to our own emotions and identities.
A noticeable flaw of the human heart is our willingness to love someone who does not deserve it. Just a few months ago, I began the process of recovering from an emotionally draining relationship that ended last June. My ex-girlfriend was often cold and withdrawn from my love, only dealing it out to me when I was at my lowest points and she feared I would cut ties for good. Despite living on this emotional rollercoaster that depended on how much love she felt like giving me that day, I continued to fight for her affection. Listening to sad playlists, I would catch myself crying in the middle of the day.
How can I cry?
Am I not in love?
Wiping away my tears as if they meant nothing, I would call her and ask to see her again, hoping that another date would mean the end of this cycle of love and loneliness.
On Saturdays, I would travel an hour by train to visit her. In December, I once travelled an hour by train only to be refused by her when I arrived, taking the train home short of a twenty-dollar bill and a beautiful winter afternoon. However terrible this refusal was, I only began to notice my downfall when one day in May, I realized I had not written a single story since I met her.
The destruction of my craft became a turning point for me. Writing was what I had always turned to since I was a small child. It was what made me who I was and who I could become.
A few weeks later, I broke up with her. This was the first decision in a year that I had made for myself and not for someone else.
When I first began post-breakup therapy, the first thing I asked my therapist was how I could start to build myself up again. He suggested that I return to writing, my first and forever love. With the help of writing creatively, I started to come to realizations about life.
One important thing I learned through writing is that life is full of intense realizations. Life is the act of constantly realizing. No one on Earth right now is completely stagnant, and if they are, it is not a good state to be in. Stagnancy limits us, freezing us before the act of transformation. It is like destroying the caterpillar before the formation of the cocoon. Noticing small differences in ourselves is a natural thing; we are built to grow and adapt as long as we live. What we are not built for is self-hatred, ignorance, or the narrow boxes of unfulfilling relationships.
I am done pressing pause on my shifting feelings. If I were to have pressed pause in the throes of my heartbreak, staying sad and heartbroken, I would not have had the chance to get back into my writing. As most humans do, I sometimes reconsider my breakup—if I should have done this thing or that thing—but I have stopped hating myself for these small human inconsistencies.
The caterpillar before the cocoon is likely also plagued by uncertainty. He probably wonders if it is normal to feel this or that twitch, or maybe he’s worried about whether he will feel the same tomorrow or the day after. With him in mind, it now comforts me to wake up, see the sunrise, and feel different about something, to realize and to actualize what I am feeling.
While we may flip between emotions on the daily, I believe that it is the consistency of a thought that counts. For me, it’s that I do not have it in me to allow someone to disrespect my love again, to be born a whole person only to be reduced to halves and quarters by someone else. The person who I eventually love will find me wonderful as I am, whole and susceptible to small, everyday changes.