I love the timelessness of fairy tales. The way an old story can be told time and time again in many different ways. I think it is largely because they get at something deeper. Themes of love, kindness, trust, and perseverance are eternal. They make up the essence of what it means to be human. The way we adapt them signals the way we are changing ourselves. That is the beauty of stories. They capture the ever-evolving human spirit and put it on display.
When I was younger, I was told that blue butterflies could grant wishes. The first wish I made, as I gazed upon its beating wings, was to have a pair of my own. Ones that could carry me above this world, into the starlight. As I grew older, my wishes became less fantastical. While climbing trees, I’d wish for my arms to be just a bit longer, enough to reach the next highest branch. I’d always wish for more, until everything became too much. I started wishing for less – less work, less stress, even less of my own stomach.
Wishes were no longer wistful dreams, but pleas from a young girl who didn’t want to grow up. I felt those growing pains intensely, both in my head and in my heart. I reached high, not for the next branch, but for the next rung on the infinite ladder. I filled my time with schoolwork and friends, hoping the noise would drown out my thoughts. Yet, in the silence, those thoughts raged within me, beating against the inside of my skull until I fell asleep with puffy eyes. In those days, during listless slumber, my wish for silence was granted.
It’s true that those awkward years are ephemeral, and I found myself embracing womanhood on a stronger foundation. I no longer defined myself by what I lacked but by what I stood for. Secure in myself, yet lost in the world, I wished for an anchor. An anchor I believed would come in the form of a warm body and welcoming arms. Someone to kiss my forehead and wipe away my tears, like my mother did many years ago.
Only now, crying took the form of silent streams, a quick release and reset done in the privacy of my locked room. I never found the anchor I was looking for, and pretty soon, I gave up trying. My focus shifted back to my schoolwork and the road that promised me success. I wished for approval, opportunity, and the strength to navigate the many hoops. Until I got those things, and my driving flame flickered out when met with the cold wind of empty success.
The security I had in myself fell apart, and I found my soul keeping a safe distance, trailing behind me in my day-to-day life. I wished for clarity and found it not as an epiphany but as the soft comfort built by tiny moments of peace. Peace found in sprouting herbs or a freshly baked pie. Peace found in laughter shared with friends or a hug from a child. Peace in comfortable silence and a sense of purpose.
Not all my wishes have been answered, and yet I keep wishing. The other day, I saw a blue butterfly. I only caught a glimpse before it fluttered to the next flower, but that moment was enough to close my eyes and make another wish, one perhaps even more fantastical than any other.