The cocoon breaks open

Columbia River Gorge east of Portland, OR
Columbia River Gorge east of Portland, OR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


“When you think of change, do not think of taking a giant leap


into the air which cannot support you. 



Instead, think of emerging from a cocoon like a caterpillar


into something you didn’t dream was possible.  “


–Julie Redstone



This week was a shock on many levels. I had anticipated that I would have yet another grueling interview, and prepared for challenging days, exhaustion, and grilling, coming back to my normal life at the end of it.



I couldn’t have been more wrong.



Here’s why:



Monday: My boss came in 10 minutes before I was scheduled to be complete for the day and laid me off, effective immediately, citing budget cuts. I am reasonably certain that the layoff had some sort of fear motivation — either spite because I had requested three days to attend the on-campus interviews or fear of uncomfortable questions by the accrediting body about the lack of the college’s use of my doctoral preparation– but it is what it is. I arrived home, cried for a while, then focused on my preparations for my trip on Tuesday.



Tuesday: I had a lovely flight, and received a brand-new car (3 miles on the engine!) to use as I drove the 4 hours from the airport to the campus. It was a lovely drive, and I saw some sublimely beautiful areas that I had never imagined existed: water falls visible from the interstate, mountains adjacent to the road that were so tall that I could not see the top except through the sunroof, and the wildness of the Columbia River that spoke to me. I’ll address that in a little bit.



As I was driving, I received a very warm, welcoming telephone call from the head of the interview committee, asking if I had arrived and telling me how excited she was to be meeting me. Wow. I’ve never had that before from an interviewer! I arrived, prepared for dinner with the interview committee, and found myself shaking so much that I could not control my hands — literally. The dinner was lovely, and I relaxed afterward via Skype with my children and “The Big Bang Theory.”



Wednesday: All-day interview that was incredibly wonderful. These people are genuinely nice and accepting of me as a whole person. I no longer felt a need to hide that I am a wife and mother as well as a doctor and professor. If they want me, they need to know the entire package, as my family is an integral part of who I am. Although I don’t want to work at the home campus (and I’m not interviewing for a position there), it was still a lovely place. I drove back to Portland, and was graced by Mt Hood in the twilight as I drove.



Thursday: I met one of my potential colleagues from the campus where I’d work and saw where my office would be. I found myself genuinely liking this man and wanting to pursue professional interests with him. Afterwards, I self-toured Portland and brought home Voodoo donuts for my family.



The enormity of Monday’s layoff didn’t sink in until yesterday, and I allowed myself to grieve finally. It needed to happen, and I was proud that I could experience it, release the pain, and move forward.



Some beautiful things that I never expected really touched me, though.


  • My mom has spoken many times of how the wine country in California (where we live) “speaks” to here. I didn’t understand what she meant…until I went to Portland and spent time there. The wildness of the Columbia River, the sharp cliffs of the Gorge, the cool humidity, and the ubiquitous greenery called my name like only a few other things have. I love it there and greatly desire to live there.
  • I finally felt accepted and esteemed as who I am, in all that I am. I reached out to friends from my now-former employer, and found a wellspring of love and support that I didn’t expect.
  • I felt a sensation that I can only explain as being similar to shackles falling away from me. I am free to be who and what I am, in all that I am and can be.
  • I attended a symphony performance with my younger daughter and heard a solo cellist whose music reached some of the deepest parts of my soul. His playing allowed me to find and release my tears.
  • I walked outside with my dog today. The air was sweet with spring blossoms. I enjoyed the sun’s warmth on my shoulders and the wind’s gentle breath playing with my hair.

Like the words of the poem at the beginning of this post, I feel as though the cocoon has broken open. It was painful at first, but I can feel my wings starting to spread and gain strength.




4 thoughts on “The cocoon breaks open

  1. What a wonderful and uplifting post. Sometimes from the ashes of loss we are reborn a new being. The story reminds me of one of my favorite story about struggle and victory and butterflies of course….

    ‘Once a little boy was playing outdoors and found a fascinating caterpillar. He carefully picked it up and took it home to show his mother. He asked his mother if he could keep it, and she said he could if he would take good care of it.

    The little boy got a large jar from his mother and put plants to eat, and a stick to climb on, in the jar. Every day he watched the caterpillar and brought it new plants to eat.

    One day the caterpillar climbed up the stick and started acting strangely. The boy worriedly called his mother who came and understood that the caterpillar was creating a cocoon. The mother explained to the boy how the caterpillar was going to go through a metamorphosis and become a butterfly.

    The little boy was thrilled to hear about the changes his caterpillar would go through. He watched every day, waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day it happened, a small hole appeared in the cocoon and the butterfly started to struggle to come out.

    At first the boy was excited, but soon he became concerned. The butterfly was struggling so hard to get out! It looked like it couldn’t break free! It looked desperate! It looked like it was making no progress!

    The boy was so concerned he decided to help. He ran to get scissors, and then walked back (because he had learned not to run with scissors…). He snipped the cocoon to make the hole bigger and the butterfly quickly emerged!

    As the butterfly came out the boy was surprised. It had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. He continued to watch the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would dry out, enlarge and expand to support the swollen body. He knew that in time the body would shrink and the butterfly’s wings would expand.

    But neither happened!

    The butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings.

    It never was able to fly…

    As the boy tried to figure out what had gone wrong his mother took him to talk to a scientist from a local college. He learned that the butterfly was SUPPOSED to struggle. In fact, the butterfly’s struggle to push its way through the tiny opening of the cocoon pushes the fluid out of its body and into its wings. Without the struggle, the butterfly would never, ever fly. The boy’s good intentions hurt the butterfly.’

    As you go through school, and life, keep in mind that struggling is an important part of any growth experience. In fact, it is the struggle that causes you to develop your ability to fly.’

    Let struggles come, I wan to be able to fly high.


  2. I very much like this and only came across it because you linked my blog to it. Thank you for linking to my blog and thank you for sharing.

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