Written by Reema Aldahlawi Photos by Faris Alkhelwyi, Tony Turaeve, and Inés Mendoza-Pérez
I was 18 years old. I was on my phone, lying down on my bed. It was a weekend afternoon, I was really calm. Suddenly, a brown butterfly flew in the window. It flew at me, and although I got up and batted it away, it would not stop flying at me for five minutes straight. My heart was racing, I could not help but panic and scream, calling for help. Eventually, my brother came in. “KILL THE BUTTERFLY!” I yelled at him. He just laughed at me. “Just chill,” he said, “it’s just a butterfly.”
"But it wasn’t just a butterfly to me. It was wild and uncontrollable. From that day on, I never felt safe around butterflies; it became a phobia for me."
Butterflies were what I was afraid of the most. Prior to this challenge I had no real intention of interacting with butterflies or even having to deal with any type of bug in general.
Years later, my friend Ines issued me a challenge to face my fear of butterflies by going to the Butterfly Pavilion at the Natural History Museum. I agreed, only if she would face her fear of karaoke. Together we would conquer some of our greatest fears and come out on top.
The flap of the butterfly wing brings weakness to my stomach and stress to my soul, but hopefully at the Natural History Museum, I will discover a new butterfly-friendly version of myself.
"I woke up with a rush in my heart, not sure if I was ready to face and overcome my fear yet." Butterflies were always a nightmare for me, I just hated the idea of small insects with wings wandering and flying around me. I’m just afraid of all insects in general but specifically butterflies, and to be honest, my heart dropped when I realized I had to go with Ines to the Butterfly Pavilion. When we finally got there, my heart started racing more and more when I was about to enter the exhibition. The first thing I saw was a tent surrounded by flowers and a garden. “I don’t really want to do this, do I really have to?” I asked myself. My friends Ines, Tony and Faris were by my side to make me feel comfortable by telling me, “Just look at the pretty colors of the butterflies. They aren’t going to get at you.” The shakiness of my hands began to overpower my ability to speak as I knew what I was nearly about to face.
"Going inside, butterflies were everywhere, some were flying and some were on the wall and even on the ground."
I saw a yellow and black butterfly that was covered in a pretty design, and its wings were 2 inches wide. Ines assured me, “They don’t eat you!" I noticed that most of the butterflies were on a wall or on plants and not flying at me. I was staring at a wall, when I finally spotted a giant dark black and bright yellow butterfly calmly hanging on a flower. Her wings had delicate yellow polka dots, and underneath were blue and red stripes. Her colors were so beautiful that I became calm and relaxed. I knew this butterfly was not going to attack me and I felt safe.
The butterflies began to give me good vibes. I started walking around and even getting close to them. We took pictures of me getting close to the butterflies and wandering around, and in the end, I realized I am no longer afraid. If you are afraid of something, you should go and face it because if you don’t, you will never change. Take the advice of the butterfly; it was once a caterpillar, but then it grew into something beautiful to become a butterfly.
To read about Inés' KARAOKE VS. BUTTERFLIES, click here.