I wonder if caterpillars know that someday they'll fly. Do they know that they will turn into butterflies, or do they just go about their lives, crawling on the ground, doing their caterpillary thing, and then one day start the metamorphosis process because it suddenly just seems natural, like breathing or like drinking when you're thirsty?
I think that maybe we’re like caterpillars sometimes. Some of us have no idea what flying’s like, but we see others doing it and we want to do it, too. But it seems so foreign, and appearances suggest that we should never be able to; the ones we see flying seem like an entirely different species from us. But they’re really not; they’re just in a different phase of life than we are.
Whether they are people we know personally or perhaps famous people that we look up to, when we watch the ones who are soaring, it’s tempting to see them and think that they have some integral trait that we just don’t possess: grace, agility, wings. But the truth is, that’s just not the case. Like the lowly caterpillar that has the same exact DNA as the butterflies that fly above it, we have all of that potential inside of us now. You have what it takes. Maybe you’re the aspiring musician, furiously scribbling down the songs that are just pouring out of you, practicing in your garage until 1:00 am. You see the rock stars on TV and you want to be that good. My friend, you already are a rock star. Maybe you’re the premed college student, trying to manage a part-time job while you take 18 credits and maintain a 3.9 GPA because one day you want to be the chief of surgery at the top hospital in your state. Look at the hours your keeping—you’re practicing for your residency. Maybe you don’t know what you want to do in life but you have lots of ideas and a big heart and a couple of life-sized dreams that you’re scared to admit to even yourself but that you want to throw yourself into headfirst.
Don’t feel discouraged because you can’t see any wings yet. Everyone has to start somewhere. There was a time when your favorite band was playing in any local bar or café that would have them. Your role model who works at Johns Hopkins started out with the same overloaded schedule that you have. Butterflies start with their stomachs lying on the ground. And have you ever watched caterpillars in the chrysalis stage? I have, and it has to be the most boring part of their short little lives. It doesn’t look like too much fun, and I imagine that their bodies are working very hard to do what they need to do. It also takes up about a third of their lifespan to complete. But when they emerge, they can fly.
Maybe it’s not your moment yet, but there will be a day when you do have wings. It’s coming. If you feel more like a caterpillar right now than a butterfly, embrace the stage of life that you’re in. Keep trying; keep growing. Don't give up. No one magically arrives at point B--they have to travel there from point A first. And when you're getting bored and tired of the place that you're in right now, remember that when you have your wings, you will look back and you will know that the caterpillar stage was well worth it.