“Do you think they know?” I asked.

“Know what?”

“That they carry pollen on their wings?”

My friend and I were walking around Callaway Gardens, on the Rhododendron Trail with no rhododendrons blooming as of yet. We had just walked out of the butterfly conservatory where 1,000 tropical butterflies fly around freely among cool-looking plants and waterfalls. I had just learned how the butterfly carries pollen on its wings, how it plays a crucial role in propagating life in the plant kingdom. And it reminded me of the great impact each of us makes in this world—often unbeknownst to us—by simply being, merely breathing, flying about our own day-to-day business. I wondered how many of us, during these difficult times of unemployment and cutbacks, are actually celebrating the innate value of living. And how many of us are berating ourselves for not being more productive, more successful, more, more, more something.

A colleague of mine told me about one of her clients who had lost his job after working his entire life—40 years—in a corporation. His retirement funds are so depleted that he can’t be a source of financial support to his children anymore. His whole sense of self is now in question. He’s not sure how to relate to his children.

In no other country in the world is our sense of self-worth so tied to the workplace and our ability to generate revenue as it is in the US. So it’s only natural that a change of such great magnitude would make any of us question who we are and what value we contribute. But it’s precisely at times like these that we must remember the butterfly.

In his book Reflections, Henry Miller writes, “The birth of the butterfly is one of the most mysterious and miraculous things in biology…He lived a useful and productive life, the life of a worm. And he had to die a worm in order to be born an angel.”

Many of us are shedding our visibly productive lives right now, and we may not be sure where we’re headed, what it all means. It feels unbearably uncomfortable at times as we try to reinvent who we are. Our progress seems slow, as we build new businesses or look for new jobs or just sit and ponder what to do next. But if we consider this period in our lives as time spent in a chrysalis, our perspective changes. It becomes a time of quiet introspection—learning to value ourselves by looking deep within, to connect with others as our true selves, to find meaning in everyday acts. Instead of filling with anxiety and fear, we can look at this period of time as an unbelievable opportunity for growth, preparing us for the next stage in our lives—one that’s fuller and more meaningful.

In the great transformation that occurs, we begin to take flight. It may take a while for us to learn to use our new wings and bopping from flower to flower may seem meaningless and even frustrating at first. As we look inward to learn who we’ve become in the process, we’ll see that our lives were never about the money, that the work we did before wasn’t that important, but that following the joy in our souls every day always leads us to where we need to be. And one day, we may actually see the pollen falling from our wings—our greater life purpose revealed to us. It was there all along.

Author's Bio: 

Rita Farin left a 20-year career in marketing to become a full-time writer, artist and certified creativity coach. She now helps individuals unleash their imaginations to bring about new realities and corporations foster creativity in the workplace to improve business productivity. Her blog on transitioning to a creative life challenges traditional beliefs about relationships, spirituality and the creative process.