Blue butterflies were an important source of income for the Farfalle Village each spring, and the week was soon approaching when they would pass through the nearby woods. Emma was determined to be among the young people who caught one for her family. She watched the villagers working on their nets to catch the special insects, and began working on her own, weaving hers with much eagerness.
She spun, twisted, and wove the threads until a net came into existence. Then she held it up proudly, certain that the blue butterfly would soon be hers, and hopped over to a group of teens who were still at work threading theirs.
Their nets were finely woven, she saw: net holes the perfect size to allow air through yet small enough that a butterfly could not escape.
Emma glanced at her own net. Her cheeks went red with embarrassment. Compared to theirs, hers was loose and full of uneven gaps, some so big that she realized it wouldn’t catch anything.
She sulked back to her worktable to sit and start weaving a new net. Why couldn’t she see how sad hers was before looking at theirs? Now they were probably laughing behind her back.
Emma focused as she weaved again, this time studying a guide book on weaving while she worked. Long days passed, and finally the new net was finished. She held it up to the sunlight: It was much better than the last one, but was it ready to catch the butterfly?
She decided to test it in the field, crawling up to a dragonfly that was lazily hovering. Waiting until she was close enough, her arm swung out with the net and scooped the dragonfly out of the air.
“I did it!” she squealed.
The dragonfly’s wings hummed frantically, and the insect rammed and clawed until the biggest hole in the net tore and it shot out free.
She stared at the ruined net, the hole that hadn’t been strongly woven enough.
“Oh my!” Another girl had seen and began laughing with her friend. “She’ll never build a perfect net in time! How sad.”
Emma’s stomach clenched. Trying to ignore them, she left to go sit at her worktable for the third time.
She stared at the ruined net as frustration nagged at her. Negative thoughts began whirring through her head: that she wasn’t good enough, smart enough, talented enough. Her goal was too far out of reach, beyond her capabilities. It was futile to keep trying. The next net she made wasn’t going to be perfect either, so why try? By the time she made anything decent enough, the blue butterflies would already be gone. So, why try anymore?
“If you don’t keep trying, then you’ll never get anywhere.”
Emma turned to see a boy—a young boy with thick black hair and a lanky form, to be exact. She should have asked who he was and what he was doing in their village, but instead she replied: “How can I keep trying when I feel so miserable? This net won’t get finished in time, anyways…” She looked away, not wanting anyone to see the dampness in her eyes.
The boy shoved his hands into his pockets and tilted his head back to eye the morning sky. “Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but it’s the trying that matters. Don’t expect yourself to be an expert at something you’ve barely done before. Making the perfect net is hard—more than hard—which is why you start where you’re at now and keep practicing.”
She turned to look at the strange boy. “If I fail, I won’t forgive myself.”
“If you don’t try, you won’t forgive yourself. Push past the misery and keep working at it, Emma. Take a break when you need it, but don’t stop working towards the goal.”
She had to wipe her eyes with a sleeve. Push past the misery. Keep practicing. Those words somehow made the tightness in her chest ease. It wasn’t her fault that she’d failed again and again. She was new to this. It took time to learn how to do something well.
She let down her sleeve, “Who are…?” but the spot where the boy had been standing was empty. She leaned, looking left then right, but not a soul was around except the usual villagers.
Crinkling her brow, she sat back down and faced the failed net. “Okay…” She took a breath. “Let’s try this again.”
The blue butterflies arrived on time the next week. Everyone hurried out of the village with their nets in tow, reaching the woods just as the large, beautiful insects came passing through on their migration.
Emma hugged her net close for a moment, then lifted it up to the sky: It sparkled in the sunlight, threads sturdy, though some of the holes were still uneven. Much better than the previous ones, though, she held it ready and charged after the nearest butterfly.
Nets were swinging and catching, and cheers were ringing out. She tried not to let it daunt her. Even if this net failed, she would try again and again, and by next year she would be ready with the perfect net.
Emma neared the butterfly, dashed forward as it fluttered up, and swung the net in a downward arc—scooping the insect and bringing it to the ground.
The butterfly crawled and wriggled, working its way toward the biggest net hole, but she cupped a jar over it and let it crawl out to be caught within the glass.
The net wasn’t perfect, but this time it had been good enough to keep the butterfly down just long enough for her to secure it. She finally smiled, seeing her hard work pay off.
“Next year, I’ll weave the best net yet! And who knows how many more butterflies I’ll catch?”
She looked over her shoulder, almost wanting the strange boy to be there and see her successful catch, but there were only the villagers handling jars of caught butterflies.
“Thank you…whoever you were.”
The strange boy watched from a rooftop, then stretched his arms and slid off to the ground. “First mission complete. Now, off to the second…”
I felt compelled to write this after facing my own struggles as a writer. Each of us has something we want to do, a goal we want to reach, but getting there can feel daunting and almost impossible some days. But as the nameless boy in this story said: “Don’t expect yourself to be an expert at something you’ve barely done before. Making the perfect net (or whatever your goal may be) is hard—more than hard—which is why you start where you’re at now and keep practicing.”
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