Why do we step on bugs?


Makenzie Closson

A Two-tailed Swallowtail butterfly was found on the concrete near State College. This Swallowtail has a broken wing and can no longer fly.

In second grade, spring was always my favorite season. Not because the winds turned into breezes or because the sun stayed out a little longer, but because every time it rained, I would find worms on the ground. 

Not that I find worms subjectively interesting, or any insect for that matter, but something inside me always felt the need to pick up as many worms as I could and place them safely into the grass. Maybe because I wanted to make an impact, or my 7 year old brain didn’t have the capacity to not care yet. Either way, as I skipped along to school, I would pick up worms nearly every day during the springtime.

It’s possible that as we all grow older the less and less we care about the things that do matter, and the more and more we care about the things that don’t matter. Suddenly, the springtime brought me worms, but it also brought me growing pains and mood swings. I cared what a popular girl had to say about me behind my back, but not how I spoke to my family when I was upset. Now instead of picking up the worms, I’d step over them⸺or on top of them⸺ and found that I didn’t really care what happened to them as long as everything was okay for me. 

This goes for any bug. I went from letting ants crawl over my fingers to violently smashing them when I saw one inside my house. A spider’s web in the crevice of my basement ceiling was ruthlessly torn apart by a broom, the spider being executed shortly after. It’s not that I felt the need to kill insects, but they annoyed me. Spiders scared me, so I wanted them gone. I didn’t care to nurture it inside a tissue so I could escort it outside. It created a disturbance, and I didn’t want to deal with it. 

But a bug, something so small and meaningless, gives almost everyone distress. A bumblebee flies around during a barbecue and causes an uproar, or a fuzzy caterpillar is spotted on the ground at school recess and every child is screaming. Perhaps, it’s not even the insect that scares us, but it’s the fear of what it could do to us. It’s easy to assume that every spider is going to bite, or that every beetle is poisonous, but what if it isn’t

Living in fear is something humans are designed to do. Fear of getting an insect bite, sure. But also the fears of graduating, not graduating, not getting that important job or even getting the important job. Fear inducing opportunities are difficult to deal with. Not that those opportunities don’t make you feel excited, but it’s the fear of not being able to succeed within them. Messing up in life causes so much fear, so much to the extent that people will completely shut down and tell themselves that there’s no way they could ever recover from a setback.

But a setback, regardless of how big or small, is ultimately inevitable. Personally, I don’t think I’d truly be living if everything went my way. Maybe it would be nicer, but what is life if there wasn’t a catch? The problem is the refusal to try again. One mistake could cost you a week of progress, maybe a month, or maybe even close an entire path off. However, what humans do the best, unfortunately, is run away. Kill an opportunity off, and run away with it. Similar to that spider, or that ant. Something that brings no insignificance to a person, in time, will be removed by that person. 

 The metaphor with the caterpillar and the cocoon and the butterfly is overused, and I’m sure you’ve heard it before. But, instead of me telling you to wait inside the cocoon, I’m telling you not to give up while you’re still a caterpillar. 

Because despite all the voices feeding into the worst parts of us, there is always time to stop and take a moment. Goals and ambitions are things that are able to motivate us, but they aren’t things you have to achieve in order to be content with yourself. The fear of the unknown, or even what’s to come can be turned into something exciting. The bigger picture is still developing, so appreciate how that new lamp in your bedroom makes the room look, or how great an extra five minutes of sleep feels before you officially start your day. 

Instead of self-destructing, find the beauty in realizing that nothing truly makes any sense, and find peace in the fact that nothing probably ever will. We are so small here on Earth, so pick up a worm and get it off the sidewalk. Don’t kill the things that feel meaningless. 

And, maybe someday soon, instead of squashing that spider, I’ll drop it off outside, and I won’t let it bug me anymore.