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  • “What if the ugly duckling was really just an ugly duckling? What if it never became a swan?”, you asked aloud. I looked at you across the campfire through the rising smoke with panicked eyes, and I could tell by the apologetic way you looked back at me that you knew you had scared me. Under the bright full moon and oak tree branches, the fire crackled as our conversation came to a halt. Light from the flames flickered, illuminating our faces. The smoke was blowing in my direction, assaulting my eyes, but all I could feel was fear. Leaves crunched under my feet as I shifted; suddenly, the log I was sitting on was very uncomfortable. Just a moment ago, I felt perfectly content as we reflected and shared our thoughts on the simple story we had just read, “The Ugly Duckling”. Now, I was questioning my entire future over a children’s fairy-tale. Panic overcame joy and my heart dropped to my stomach.

    As a child, I was comforted by the ugly duckling’s happy resolution. The “duckling’s” ugliness was only a phase, and eventually it became a beautiful swan that lived happily ever after. All this time, I had dreamed of a future in which, like the duckling, I would find complete peace and happiness. It was a future where struggle did not exist; all I wanted was the comfort of stability. Now, I was realizing that this vision was probably just a fantasy, and I felt crushed. What if the ugly duckling never became a swan?

    I tried to redirect my thoughts. I took a deep breath of the thin mountain air and stared at the fire. I lost myself in the flames. They were pure chaos, burning infinitely and unpredictably. It’s cheesy, but that’s when it hit me. I realized that just like the flames, life is chaotic and ever-changing. If I could find beauty in the flames, I knew that I could find beauty in the chaos and struggles of the future.

    The ugly duckling was never an ugly duckling at all. It was always a swan.
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