What The Fireflies Meant

This past year I learned a little something about fireflies and friendships and really wanted to share.

Even pre-pandemic, my life was a rollercoaster. Forest Gump was right (or “Forest Gump” writer Eric Roth was right) when he said “life is like a box of chocolates”—you truly do not know what you’re gonna get. Life is unpredictable because that’s how life works. You never see it coming. So of course, I never saw how this pandemic would come at a time when I was grappling with health issues or loaded down with work (on a job that carried so many first time “what the hell” responsibilities) or dealing with some pretty huge personal stuff. And all that was coupled with my crippling anxiety about getting sick and my hypochondria about was I sick already? And now add the racial unrest that broke out and laid bare how little I am valued in this country as a black woman. A gay black woman. Welp, it all took a tremendous toll on my emotional and physical health. And yeah, all that happened as I was quarantined-ALONE. (Doggies were here but don’t talk back when I talk to them.)

I was in a tailspin—just trying to get up and get through the day was a major task. There were so many tears and fists raised in frustration and a feeling of emptiness where some days you can’t see why you matter. (I must have hugged these poor dogs 20 out of 24 hours a day—the 4 hours were cumulative hours I sleep now)—Thank god golden retrievers love hugs. I found myself trying to find joy somewhere-Anywhere. But I just couldn’t. Dark times, my friends.

"...You wanna assure folk that you’re okay and everything’s okay—but you also don’t want to lie..."


Friends and family checked in sporadically—doing their due diligence—and, of course, you wanna assure folk that you’re okay and everything’s okay—but you also don’t want to lie, but you don’t have the energy to explain the truth. And in my case, you don’t want to burden people who are dealing with their own shit.

There were days when it felt like I was on automatic- get up – feed the dogs- check social media for the latest news from all the front lines- I was immersed in this world of “too much information” but I couldn’t stop. How could I change things? How could I change people? How could I make it better? How could I make a difference? All this without leaving the house of course – cause you know… the hypochondria and the real-life pandemic.

So, what about the fireflies, you ask? Where do they come in, you query? They come in right now…

I wasn’t reaching out to anyone… it was too hard to be engaged and sad. Vacillating between helpless and hopeful took up a lot of my time. I referred to this time as, when I “WENT DARK”. I just shut down. I couldn’t engage. Most people left me alone. Deciding that I just needed “space”—when actually I needed understanding… I needed a light. And one very special friend sensed that. And reached out again and again – not for explanations or conversations -just unconditional love and support- assuring me with hearts and emojis that she was there. She didn’t get a lot back but she stayed the course. Not giving up on me. And eventually… came her big pivot: she reached out with… wait for it… fireflies from her yard. (via pictures and videos.) And In case you’re not familiar with fireflies—they are those magical flying creatures that flit about with glowing bottoms and light the nighttime. Their small bodies holding so much incredible shining power. I had no idea what a revelation this small gesture would bring to me.

While looking at the fireflies, I started to sense a sameness. I realized what I was going through (am still going through) felt so dark sometimes and seeing the light of the fireflies cut through the dark night sky in no particular pattern reminded me of close-up stars—and just like stars they were so worthy of being stared at. And wished upon. And I did. I watched and stared and wished at the pictures and videos she sent and I was mesmerized. (Fun fact: the videos were often accompanied with amusing commentary, giggles when she caught and released one, the occasional deer sighting, but most of all: love from a friend.). Every text “ding” immediately made me smile. They brought light. They gave me hope. I mean, surely in a world that made such amazing magical creatures—surely that world could be magical for all of us. For me. Surely there couldn’t always be darkness. Surely, I wasn’t always going to feel so alone. And what she couldn’t have known was that those little bursts of light showed up right at a time when I was at my lowest, when I really really REALLY needed a hug—and those fireflies became a thousand long distance hugs. Comforting. Reassuring. Uplifting. An emotional game changer for sho!!

Watching – re-watching – the fireflies light up the night-it was as though they were cutting through my own personal darkness. They were little glowing lights of hope in a world that constantly tries to put out lights. The darkness became less as the fireflies became more. The light became more. And I’m not sure if she ever knew how important those little buggers were… how much it meant to me- But it meant that someone in this darkness saw me. Someone in this darkness cared about me. Someone in this darkness surely loved me. And with every firefly that lit up—a piece of my heart did too.

I loved those fireflies. And I still love those fireflies. Much like I love the friend who sent them.

—Regina Hicks

Artwork by Angelo Lagdameo, who was greatly influenced by Regina’s article as well as other beautiful compositions of firefly artwork found online. Star drawings by Chyler Leigh.

Does Regina’s essay inspire you to make artwork? Submit your firefly artwork here.

What are your thoughts on this essay? How have you found light in the darkness? Please send us your writing submissions here.


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3 years ago

Wonderful article, Regina, thank you for sharing this with us❤️

3 years ago

Wow Regina!
I absolutely loved this piece, so inspiring. I am so glad that you were able to find light in the dark times and I thank you for sharing this with us.

Sara Malaney
3 years ago

Hi Regina! Thank you for opening up to us. This was so well written, I feel like you took me on a journey through your struggles. It was deeply personal as well as uplifting.

This past year has been, like you said, a rollercoaster for sure. Fear and sadness overpowered the goodness and light, I think we all need some fireflies. This article was exactly what I needed to hear.

You’ve got a great friend there, and I am so grateful for mine. Abbee has stuck with me since we met and I am forever grateful. I know she’s reading this so hey Abb, I love you and thank you.

Regina, thank you again for this beautiful piece of writing. I wish you all of the best in this scary world. You are a badass! ❤️

abbee merryman
3 years ago
Reply to  Sara Malaney

Sara :’( i love you, and thank you for being there for me every step of the way! I love you always❤️

3 years ago

this was magical and so beautifully written. thank you, Regina. sending you all the love, hugs and fireflies ❤️

Shandy Marbles
3 years ago

I relate to this a lot, Regina. Thank you for sharing. I’ve been alone for over a year now aside from a very welcome visit from a friend in September and one day with my family at Christmas. I’ve only seen people in real life when I go to hospital appointments but that has never been too comforting. I have found light though despite feeling incredibly lonely (which weirdly seems to become worse the longer it goes on instead of being something I get used to). I’ve found a lot of light in my two very weird cats who do talk back but not in human English and I’ve found light in taking on projects that help other people and doing work for Create Change. I’ve also found light in working on things to help myself and taking better care of myself. There’s so much that I can’t control right now, that’s true for everyone of course, so I’m focusing on what I can control and hoping that everything else will fall into place eventually.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for being so open with your very beautiful writing!

Sara Malaney
3 years ago
Reply to  Shandy Marbles

Shandy, you are such a wonderful lady. Your strength is so inspirational, I thank you for sharing with us and being vulnerable. You are rocking it!! Keep it up, okay? Love ❤️

3 years ago

Regina, what a perfect article. I loved what the fireflies represented and even the symbolism behind them. It gets me thinking about a book I read called “Firefly Lane” by Kristin Hannah. It deals with fireflies both actual ones and the symbolics behind them as it deals with a friendship spanning over 25 years.

This past year has been one heck of a ride and certainly one of the most terrifying. We haven’t been through something like this, the pandemic, the isolation that it is a difficult thing to deal with. Add in everything else from racial injustice to all of the hatred and it can be overwhelming. Where I live a couple of years back we had a gunman come down from over 100 miles away just to “kill Mexicans”. Just more hate retoric. As if the world didn’t have enough problems.

The start of the pandemic was terrifying. I was lucky enough that I wasn’t alone as I was living with my sister, sister-in-law, roommate, and his family, but simply the fact that we couldn’t do things like normal was bad. I suffer from severe anxiety so when all of this happened I was literally going crazy and having panic attacks on a daily.

Within the past 40 Days I’ve been lucky to have met some great people who have become friends. I’ve been able to share so much with them (and all of you) to the point where I feel comfortable. In-person it takes a lot for me to open up and feel comfortable around people but not here. I’m able to just be myself. I’m happy about the friendships I’ve made. I could not be more grateful for them.

Sara Malaney
3 years ago
Reply to  Ronnie

Ronnie, you are a blessing and I am so grateful I’ve gotten the chance to get to know you a bit. Thank you for sharing with us.

3 years ago

this is such a beatiful piece. I love this and relate. thank you for sharing!

Cindy Woodford
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story with us, and confirming what I always say – good friends are special treasures. You’ve also sent a powerful reminder that it’s important to reach out to those we care about, letting them know that they’re loved and that they matter. And, finally, thank you for transporting me back to my childhood when I spent countless hours chasing fireflies. I was always mesmerized by them – and I still am. Thanks again, Regina. You are a masterful writer.

lizzy (she/her)
3 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Regina. It is always inspiring to hear others’ struggles and to know that we’re not alone, and there is a light (maybe a firefly) at the end of the tunnel.

Dorin Cohen
3 years ago

Wow Regina ,thank you for this amazing article and for being so open with us .
I can very much relate to it . During this pandemic I’ve found myself in a tremendous loneliness. Many times I wanted to talk with someone ,but like you said I didn’t want to be a burden and if I’m being honest I can’t remember the last time I got a hug . but with all the darkness that took over me I was able to found the light ,I found how strong I am in times where it felt like the ground underneath me is crumbling down and I found amazing people within this community that gave me a sense of belonging and that I’m not alone.
Your friend sounds like an incredible person and I’m glad that she was there to help you find the light again. Thank you and the CC for sharing this ,exactly today. It’s been a very emotional weekend for me and this article made my heart smile a bit and gave me hope . Which is exactly what I needed today.
So again ,Thank you !

3 years ago
Reply to  Dorin Cohen

Sending you a big big virtual hug<3

Last edited 3 years ago by Michela
Dorin Cohen
3 years ago
Reply to  Michela


3 years ago

What a powerful article, Regina! And so so relatable. We all have had our difficulties in carrying on since the pandemic started and your story is really inspiring. Knowing that you’ve started to feel better thanks to a friend is something special. I couldn’t have faced this terrible time without my friends. They’ve helped me and supported me through my darkest moments.
I loved how fireflies brought you light. Last summer I saw a bunch of them in my garden for the first time. I was amazed how such little creatures could make me feel so hopeful.
Thank you for sharing your story with us!

3 years ago

Regina, you are so brave! Stuff like this is not easy to just come out and say, we are all here for you❤️ I’m glad someone could lift you up during those dark times, fireflies too! That’s so cool! Every time when I think of fireflies it reminds me of the firefly from Disney’s Princess and the Frog. Wishing you the best always

Carson Stanton
3 years ago

Thank you for sharing this with us Regina! I think a lot of us here can relate to this! I know I certainly can!❤

abbee merryman
3 years ago

Regina, thank you for sharing with us❤️
Definitely related to this A LOT!!! I’ve been blessed with two amazing best friends, Sara and Kira who are some of the most incredibly kind people I know. I truly would not be here without them, and they mean the absolute world to me!! Thank you for this gorgeous article!! Much love, Abbee

Sara Malaney
3 years ago
Reply to  abbee merryman

I love you, always ❤️

Laura Hefner
3 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing <3 In the past year, I’ve found light in the darkness through having some assignments for school that are exclusively done in groups. Last semester, I had to conduct a community needs assessment from start to finish with five other students, and there was absolutely no way that I could have done it all by myself because it had so many moving parts to it. Not procrastinating on my homework when possible has helped me to avoid some stress related to having to rush to finish things at the last minute. On a personal level, exercising outside (weather permitting), watching TV or a movie, and reading old entries here have been really helpful for lifting my spirits when I don’t feel so great. Life’s been really stressful recently because I’m about a month away from finishing graduate school, but these things together have helped me to hang on for a little while longer.

3 years ago

This is a wonderful article. It reminds me of a Quote: “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times If only one remembers to turn on the light” – Albus Dumbledore
I think it really fits to your experience with the fireflies. Everything was dark, but there was this one friend not giving up on you and turning on a light, remembering you there is something else than Darkness.
I am really glad that I too have friends who didn’t let me shut myself down. They where there even though I hadn’t the emotional energy for them at the time they let me knew they’d be always here for me. So as I felt better I could check up on them. I think without those people I would have taken more damage caused by the pandemic. Not to be alone helped a lot. I am not alone and I never will be alone and even if I couldn’t reach out to my friends, I know that I now also have the CC community. It just feels good to know that.

3 years ago

This is a beautiful article Regina. I can’t thank you enough for sharing it with us.

Erika Hockova
3 years ago

That is very nice that your friend “saw you”. So cute..:))

Brittany Delamar
3 years ago

Thank you so much for sharing, made me tear up, so beautifully written and expressed

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