Every year or two a tiny species of ant appear in my kitchen and bathroom - perhaps for a their winter vacation. They stay a couple of weeks and then disappear. I hate to bring in an exterminator because of the noxious chemicals, but I'm not above squishing the poor little creatures. It's funny how something so tiny can make you shriek when you turn on the bathroom light and find a few dozen of them marching up the wall towards the sink. These guys seem to be drawn towards water.
I have a soft spot for ants as a result of a little piece I wrote a few years ago that was read on CBC's Richardson's Roundup. I thought I'd share it with you here.
In order for you to understand this story I have to describe the candelabra that used to sit on my dining room table. It's made out of rusty looking iron and supports three glass votive candle holders. These cups are supported by a ring of metal that surrounds each glass. The centre support of the candelabra holds one candle and two sideways "s" shaped pieces extend out each side to support the other two candles. The middle candle is set up a little higher than the other two.
One day during lunch I noticed an ant running around the metal ring that surrounded one of the votives. He was quite focused on his task, traveling around and around the ring at a steady pace. Every so often a little burst of speed would come upon him and would go a little faster for a while. This went on, literally for hours. He was still there at supper time, going around and around and around. I felt sorry for the poor little thing. A tiny step off the path would take him down to the table via the middle support, but he seemed determined to stay the course.
After watching him for a while, my daughter put her fork at the juncture where the circle met the "s" in hopes of making the ant stop and see the way down. At first the ant just went around the fork, but the next time around, my daughter made it impossible for the aunt to do so. With no choice, the ant followed the new path, at a more cautious pace. The path went down at first but then followed the curve of the "s" up a bit on it's way to the centre support. Once the ant reached this centre, it would be clear sailing down to the table and he'd be on his merry way...or so I thought. The ant began to make his way up the hill and just before it reached the crest, he paused, turned around, went back up to the circle he had been on previously, and continued ....around and around and around.
People are often compared to ants, and it made me think about how often people behave like the one on my candelabra. Sometimes we go around and around in circles, following the usual path to get somewhere, working harder and harder but never seeming to make any progress. Sometimes it takes an outsider to force us to look at the fork in the road and take the one less traveled. Sometimes we seem well on the way to our goal, it may be almost within sight, but something keeps us from climbing that final hill. Maybe we run out of steam, maybe we fear failure...or success. Perhaps we fear the unknown and chose to return to the familiar path, going around and around clinging our ingrained habits and rituals, hoping for change that won't come unless we do something about it ourselves.
It may seem silly, but that ant showed me that it would be a shame to give up on my dreams before I'd given them my best shot. I've always believed that we can do whatever we want with our lives, but it's up to us to do it. I hated to think I hadn't take advantage of every opportunity just because I couldn't see what that opportunity would bring. For all I knew, my goal was just over the next hill.
I hope this story encourages you too, to continue striving for your dream. It may be closer than you think.