To say I am a chronically confused person would be an understatement. I have spent my whole life, waking and sleeping, trying desperately to make sense of this bizarre, terrible, glorious thing we call life. I have never known success, no matter how hard I try. Until a few days ago, when I saw the cricket on the floor.
There I sat, legs crossed, uncertain about anything and everything. The wood under my palms was cold and grounding, but everything else in the room seemed to spin. There were so many people, so many noises. So many rules and changes and thoughts all bombarding me at once, exploding my brain in an anarchy of noise and overstimulation. I closed my eyes, trying to focus on the chilly floorboards touching my skin because lord knows how impossible it would be to focus on the administrator giving me instructions. After my breath slowed and my muscles ceased their twitching, I gathered the courage to open my eyes again. What I found when I regained my vision was something quite unexpected.
I saw a cricket on the floor.
It took me a moment to figure out what it was. I had never seen a cricket up close. I had only heard them singing their lullabies outside my window before I drifted off to sleep or chirping distantly at my nighttime soccer practice, always under the protection of the shadows.
What was this little creature doing in here? With all the students, the bustle, the blinding lights? Surely, he knew that this was not where he belonged? I could see it in the nervousness with which he hopped his way under strangers’ legs – begging for a silence, a hideaway that he could not seem to find. I made my way through a crowd of bent knees and booming voices and waited, fingers outstretched, for him to find his way to me.
Only after he had explored the terrain of my limbs and deemed it safe did I make him a cave with my palms. He sat there for a while, quiet and still, occasionally stirring to click his legs together in the habitual way that he did. I decided that his name was Charles, due to a resurfaced memory of an electromagnet I made in fifth grade named Charlie. I was very proud of the electromagnet, being the first in the class to finish making one. The coils were perfectly placed, neat and tight around the perfect rivet that I had chosen. I grew immediately attached to it, and in my head, it had a personality. In my head, he cared about me, and he was proud of the meticulous manner with which I put him together. Now, here I was, six years later, attached to another spiritless object that I had personified to think was my friend. I’ve always had a tendency towards maladaptive daydreaming – lost in one fantasy or another, never staying in one place for too long. I thought I had gotten better about it, but something about this little bug reignited that long-suppressed imagination. I found myself slipping away from the chaos of orientation, safety meetings, and socialization so invasive it made me want to vomit, and I was shot instantaneously into the perspective of the cricket’s cave.
I imagined what could have brought him here. Perhaps he was new to the world, young and sensitive, and all the colors of nature overwhelmed him. Perhaps he scurried under the cracks of the doors to find somewhere peaceful to rest. Perhaps he lost sense of direction, and wandered into this room, lost and weary, trying to find his way back home? Or trying to find his way to a new home, one that he planned to make for himself? I had so many questions for him. Would he like to accompany me into the darkness of my dorm room? It’s quiet in there. I have a few houseplants for him to explore, and many caves and corners in which to hide. I wanted to ask him how he felt about loneliness, and if he, too, was not able to live without like-minded beings, but not able to function around too much of them. Up until the moment I had to leave him alone again, when we all packed up our things and went on to our next meeting, I wondered if he was like me.
After snapping back into reality, I walked outside and placed him tenderly on the softest blade of grass I could find, in the shadows of a flowering bush. It was cool and dim, and I stood there silently watching him retreat further into the darkness. As I whispered goodbye and turned my back on the little creature, I realized that I found some of that clarity I was looking for.
I had spent an hour lost in a trance, making up stories about a bug. A bug.
The sense that I was searching for – the purpose or meaning of life – is not real. You can find yourself in the most mundane and spectacular of things. When you use your imagination and storytelling to process the world, it doesn’t have to make sense. All that matters is realizing that you are part of that absurdity – that you are a human, but you are also dark and light, you are shade and sunshine, you are wind and rain. You are a part of everything, whether it makes sense or not. Therefore, it is okay to be a little strange. It is okay to find your life’s purpose in something idiosyncratic. It is okay to achieve happiness through metaphor and fantasy. And it is okay to escape from the relentless chokehold of loneliness by making friends with a mere cricket on the floor.