Choosing Change

Caterpillar ready to spin a chrysalis.

The caterpillar is programmed by its DNA to spin a cocoon and emerge a butterfly. In the process, the caterpillar turns to undifferentiated goo and then reforms as a butterfly. No one knows if the caterpillar is aware of what happens during the process.

People are different. We don’t know how to spin a cocoon, and we would be scared if we could. Yet we can choose transformation. It is hard, making the choice to change. It means we deliberately give up one thing to choose another. It means we risk losing friends who don’t want to get to know us all over again in our new forms.

But some of us do choose. We choose to move to a new place and start a life over. We choose to forgive bad parenting, and accept what we did get, and thrive despite of it.

Transformation begins

That transformation is as amazing as a caterpillar’s. For all of us who have survived, who have chosen to heal ourselves, to mother ourselves, to keep going no matter how hard, we have chosen a life of growth and transformation.

We know change is possible and sustainable. Sometimes it’s a secret. Sometimes we reinvent ourselves several times. We can be more than one person over a lifetime. We can change our life.
We have a choice.


Quinn McDonald witnesses transformations as a coach. She celebrates change.

Images: top: Obsession with butterflies. Bottom: restoring the


18 thoughts on “Choosing Change

  1. I know you’re talking about personal, individual kinds of change. As usual lately what I think about is how scale impinges on and alters the idea. At the biggest scale we know of, some important things don’t seem to change at all, maybe ever. The value of the energy in the universe (this includes all the stuff in the universe too) is a constant. As Einstein said, “neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed.”

    And yet locally – at a smaller scale – all that stuff, which includes us, is in constant motion, from the brownian motion of molecules to somebody driving to a coaching session. From one moment to another, unexpected changes occur.

    Any unexpected change contributes to something else that makes up the universe: information. Not meaning, but the mathematical form of information, which really is pretty much “any unexpected change”.

    Now, entropy is a tendency that reduces information. Put an ice cube in a cup of hot water and wait, and what you get is a cup of uniformly tepid water. Boring; it’s all the same. The information introduced by differences in temperature gradually fades away.

    There are some models of the universe that suggest that everything is eventually going that way; that if you wait long enough (a great deal longer than anything has yet lasted), the whole universe will be uniformly blah; no more temperature differentials, no more information. The total amount of energy will still be the same, but there won’t be any more bouncing around.

    That’s only one possibility, of course, and there seem to be other tendencies that run counter to the great entropic sleep. The amount of complexity, and thus information, in the universe (or at least this local part of it) shows signs of increasing. Life does not exclusively evolve toward greater complexity, but a living system is in general more complex than a nonliving system. The more complex the living system, the more information. Humans are among the most complex living systems, and human behavior, both individual and eusocial, is also rather information-rich.

    So it would seem that by changing in unexpected ways, an individual is adding information to the universe, and doing his or her part to battle entropy. Thermodynamic infantry, charge!

    (I’ve played fast and loose with some things here. For the real deal about mathematical information, see Shannon, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication”

  2. This is a topic that has been on my mnd lately – I have been thinking of the cost of giving up the known, the comfortable, the secure. . . and stepping out in a new direction. I’ve made dramatic decisions a few times in my life and each time I weighed up the pro and con columns, but I always followed my gut instinct and my heart.

  3. Yesterday the topic for my Visual Journaling class was “Transform”. We had a great discussion on change and transform. One of my students said that change is inevitable, but we choose to transform. I love the idea that I get to participate in the process, not just be a victim to it. When I was looking up the definition of transform, it talked about an electrical transformer, the machine that changes electrical current (energy) from AC to DC. I want to be a transformer- one who can change bad or good energy into GREAT energy! Thanks for confirmation that it is possible.

  4. Interesting. I read this as I ponder old, unconsious internal reactions, and wonder if, now I’m bigger, and stronger, I can choose to push the doors of my heart open after someone has left. Perhaps the pain won’t annihalate me, now that I am grown. I’m not even sure I know how, but I had just decided to try when I read your post. Thanks.

    • It’s a big risk, of course, But what is the risk to you to keep your heart nailed shut to protect what has already fled? It’s hard not to blame the next person in your life for the sins of the first (I know a great deal about that), but I would rather be hurt loving than be hurt from being alone.

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