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Freedom is for Everyone

A stranger once told me that when he was 4 years old, his father died. Awkwardly, I apologized for his loss, and he quickly responded,

“I mean, it’s okay. Everyone dies.”

I then avoided the silence and rushed to ask him about the first thing that came to mind: bugs. Time passed, and we began to laugh at one another as I told him about my fear of ants, and he explained his habit of saving spiders trapped indoors.

I found my new friend’s perspective on life and loss fascinating. He accepts the extreme temporality of all living things, while simultaneously choosing to consistently protect one of the most misunderstood classes of animalia from isolation and death.

Following our conversation, I wondered where the desire to save a bug comes from. What is gratifying about freeing something that does not walk, talk or breathe like we do?

How is one able to actively accept the multiplicity of a bug’s life?

Every irrational thought is a rational feeling

It is socially proven that a person has a multitude of personalities, interests, and needs. And yet, we tend to cling to binary customs, common practices, and patterned beliefs. Perhaps this is why it is common to chase after a version of ourselves that is most eager to please.

We like being liked.

We also enjoy the comfort of liking someone who is reflective of what other people like about us. This frame of thinking is not inherently problematic. However, it is limiting when attempting to empathize with someone who has a different style of reacting to the ebbs and flows, the pain and pleasure of life.

For this reason, I realized that insect savers practice empathy even when it may at first seem “unnecessary.”

According to American Buddhist Pema Chödrön, if we learn how to routinely act with compassion, then the fear that stems from our own existence will force us to embrace the impermanence of the world and everything that lives within it.

“Instead of withdrawing into ourselves, we can use the grittiness, the harshness of the human condition as a way to rouse our natural ability to love, to care, to understand our interconnectedness.”

Pema Chödrön, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

Discomfort confronts ignorance 

Expressing empathy is a token of relatability that is more difficult than “digesting” that which may seem foreign at first. Insect savers have the most lucrative frame of thinking because they are acutely aware of the distinction between empathy as an emotion versus a practice. Since an insect saver chooses to see beyond the bug’s differences, they are then unable to mark the quality of a bug’s existence as inadequate in relation to their own. 

Courtesy of Kayla Patterson

Therefore, the sooner we begin to have compassion for the parts of ourselves that we do and do not like, the easier it will be to connect with others. It is becoming increasingly apparent how common it is for one to feel shameful of who and what they are as they refer to themselves as “chubby,” “scrawny,” “stupid,” “lonely,” “lazy,” “lesser,” or “worthless.”

You do not have to love every piece of yourself all of the time — though you do need to try.

First, we need to recognize if what we individually think on a day-to-day basis is “right,” “wrong,” or somewhere in-between. Then we can be appreciative of ourselves, especially when it is most challenging. This is because as we continue to unlearn harmful habits, poor mindsets, social constructs and illogical ideologies; we will then productively vocalize our own worries of “lack.” I urge you to collectively celebrate how difficult and worthwhile it is to accept yourself as “enough” because I’ve found this to be the most satisfying aspect of life.

Courtesy of Lauren Stockmon-Brown

Nothing lasts forever

An insect saver is able to empathize with the “smallness” of the bug’s perspective and the “greatness” of its life. Mayflies have a lifespan that lasts only 24 hours. A pharaoh ant can live up to four to 12 months, and Southern black widow spiders live one to three years. The luckiest amongst us all have on average 79 years.

So, why would a human choose to protect a life that is exceptionally temporary and unrelated to their own existence? Potentially because there is a finer taste of bliss that lies within the discomfort of embracing our own — and other’s — feelings of ache and joy.

There will be many moments in life when we feel like the bug, then the insect saver, and then the bug again. These quick-switch feelings are beyond okay. In fact, they are incredibly comforting because there seems to be an endless amount of space for heartbreak than growth, rejection that leads to more questions, tears, and hope.

As humans, our moods fluctuate and time feels unfair. Though, we must avoid ruminating on the negative or positive aspects of living. This is because being emotionally high is temporary and with practice, so are our emotional lows.

Why not choose to cherish the fear of our differences and the parts of ourselves we don’t fully know yet?

If we begin to actively view anything and anyone we come into contact with as temporary, then the exciting aspects of living would be learning from that which we have the most difficulty relating to. Therefore, the practice of choosing to live life empathically could be seen as the backbone of being grateful for our sameness and our separateness.

Simply because you cannot truly accept the value of a bug’s life until you practice empathizing with the embarrassing and gorgeous facets of your own existence.

A Bug’s Life 

My mind muddled easily. 

Dreaming of that crap 

That crap that you said 

To me 

Of me 

About me 


Never felt that worthy 

Never wanted you to hurt me 

Always sat there slyly 

Always liked me smiling 

My mind muddled easily. 

Cause’ they never wanted to see me 

Cause’ I don’t reflect the reflections that you write


I’m lost in the trap that you thought was right

Hair too greasy

Muscles too meaty 

Height too greedy 

Voice not needy 

I wished that I had what I didn’t


I got what I thought and I listened.

Fighting that thought cause’ I’m different 


I didn’t think I had to fit in.

Vibing this shit cause it’s fittin’ 


I’m more than my pigment. 

I use to not want to be livin’ 


I could say I’m still 


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  • Lauren Stockmon Brown

    Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large from New York University

    Lauren Stockmon Brown is a passionate storyteller and writer who focuses on race, gender, mental health and politics. She is a Fulbright Scholar and founder of the “My Colorful Nana” Project, a collected group of “Generous Thinkers” and a podcast series that encourages listeners to celebrate their individual definitions of the words “beauty,” “femininity,” and cultural identity. Learn more about her work and journey on Instagram & Twitter.