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Getting Back Up: The Story of Elroy

Personal Improvement

Sometimes life knocks you down. Here's how a bug gave me the strength to get back up.

If you had an omniscient 3rd-person view of my apartment on a sunny Friday afternoon a few weeks ago, here's what you would have seen: Darkness. Not complete darkness because the direct sunlight that hits my window at that time of day can still penetrate my not-quite-blackout curtains somewhat. But still dark enough that you’d easy trip. Over me.

Because if you looked down, you would have seen me. Lying face down on the rug in the middle of the living room, not unlike George-Michael from Arrested Development.

You would have experienced silence. For 20 mins. And that was all there was. I wasn't asleep. I wasn't particularly anything. I wasn't tired from a workout or exhausted from a day of hard labour. I was just having a shit day and had to black out the world for a little bit.

Next to my feet, a bug. A dead bug. He's been dead and upside down on my floor for weeks. My apartment seems to have a lot of bugs this summer, probably because I like to leave the balcony door open while working so I don't feel as isolated. This particular bug has wings. It flew in here, died, and somehow stayed on my floor. It never got brushed away by a broom or a mop or sucked into a vacuum. All of which I've run over the floor multiple times since this bug died. It's a miracle he's still there. (And by miracle I mean he’s the same colour as the hardwood and my cleaning process is in dire need of refinement.)

I named him Elroy.

I envy Elroy in that moment on the floor. A bug's life is short, quick, instinctual. Not burdened by thought or a million chemicals sloshing around in a malformed mind like that of human.

Fly, fly, fly, land, fly, fly, land, crawl, fly, land, boot.

It's a simple life.

It's also a lifestyle infinitely more common than ours. We are 7 billion strong, but insects? They've got us beat by quite a wide margin. As do trees. There are something like 3 trillion trees on Earth right now (no one knows for sure). That’s about 430 per person, if you do the math.

And insects are on yet another level. One paper I found estimates the insect population at any given time somewhere on the order of 10 quintillion. That's 1.5 billion insects per person on earth. So not quite infinite, but ... damn! This is the planet of the insects and we're just guests.

(The concept of a billion can be hard to understand. This always helps me: when you're a million seconds old you're 11 days old. When you're a billion seconds old, you're 32 _years_ old. When you're one quintillion seconds old, well, you're 32 billion years old, or more than twice as old as the entire universe.)

So yeah. That's a lot of insects in the world.

Elroy is just one of them. I envy his insignificance. He can die and no one cares. There will be no candlelight vigils for Elroy. (As much as his moth friends may enjoy that.)

What the hell is my point here?

Well life beats you down sometimes. That’s okay. Some days you just gotta lie on the floor for a little bit and regroup. In a moment you can think it's helpless but in the grand view it's rather insignificant. Not unlike a bug.

You just have to find a way to get off the floor. Me, I decided to write about a dead bug. I decided to look up how many bugs per person are in the world. I decided that was enough to get back on the horse for that particular afternoon. And so I wrote this. And then I gave my floors a thorough cleaning, saying goodbye to Elroy. Then I opened the curtains and carried on.

And that’s just how it goes some days.

Banner photo - Unsplash / Emanuel Feruzi