a spiral staircase with yellow and gray colors

Great qualities aquatic snails have that we can benefit from as well

By Anastasia Baraeva
6 min read

If you ask me what my favorite animal is, I would definitely name a gold mystery snail. I remember myself watching it for the first time in my aquarium and getting amazed, thrilled, and inspired. All my friends have now learned all there is to know about this wonder of nature, so let me enlighten you, too.

Snails are the fastest animals I have ever seen. I put my aquarium on my desk to get a glimpse of what is going on there every now and again. Paradoxically, the slower the snail seemed, the faster it was; it was here or there in a blink of an eye. And it reminded me of one Capricorn trait, which is my star sign, incidentally. They say that Capricorns’ personal growth might be imperceptible or even deceptive: it might seem they are treading water when, in fact, a person has already taken a leap. Picture a girl who devoted all her free time to practicing the piano and reading books. But at the age of 25, it suddenly dawned on her that she needed to learn English. Working as a concertmaster at a music college, she spent her evenings watching movies, reading articles in English, and making flashcards with unknown English words. Every day, the young woman methodically sorted out the cards, having no idea where this would lead her. Four years later, she quit the job and became a teacher of English because, in her case, it seemed to her the only way to practise the language daily and at the same time meet her needs. To say that everyone was astonished by her dramatic career switch is to say nothing. But she was simply a Capricorn and wanted to do work that invigorated her, which required the virtue of perseverance and determination, and above all, an enigmatic capability of getting where you need to be so quickly that people cannot even register it.

Snails build their own shells. Snail’s spiral shell serves as an inner refuge when the world around the snail feels overwhelming. In today’s fast-paced world, the decision-making process might be very difficult because of uncertainty, FOMO, assumptions people might have adopted from others, and so on. And to make the right choice, your own choice, you sometimes need alone time and your own proverbial shell to retreat into, trying to tune into your inner true self. This meditative process might help you to foster a deep understanding of your growth and the importance of maintaining a balanced and patient approach to life. This understanding led me, for example, to an amazing discovery that nobody should be asked for advice on what to do but me. It turned out that I already knew all the answers to my questions because each stage of my life builds upon the last, like the snail builds its spiral shape, creating a meaningful journey.

Snails seem to be pure introverts. My snail crawls by itself wherever it wants, always carrying the air of self-sufficiency, self-reliance and introspection. These are the main traits of introverts, but being one of them, I have always perceived these features as abnormal and tried to reform myself in any way possible. However, looking at the snail, I thought that being an introvert not only it wasn’t bad, but actually came with some very exciting benefits. First and foremost, often being in solitude, you never know what crazy idea springs to your mind and where it will lead you. Second, if you are in your cocoon stage—when you feel stuck in life—it might be a mysterious transitional process of turning into a wonderful butterfly. And last but not least, by reflecting internally, you see things that others can miss simply because of a higher level of concentration which usually interrupts the spinning of mind and helps me, for instance, to make thoughtful decisions and execute them with more accuracy.

Snails symbolize independence. To me, independence is a skill to create a sense of home and belonging, no matter where my journey takes me. Snails carry their home with them wherever they go. Now, my home is where I am, too; I don’t dwell on furniture, or a place, or people anymore. For a Capricorn, believe me, this mindset shift was not as easy as it may sound because Capricorns embody conservatism, materialism, and stability. But this summer I experienced an existential crisis when I was broke, devastated, and lost in terms of what to do with my life. I was on a downward spiral: my productivity was down by fifty percent, and everything seemed to me irritating and worthless. I decided to go on a trip to the mountains where I had never been before. It was as far away as I had never gone before, too far from my typical life. It seemed as if I was in a parallel universe because I felt and thought and lived my life differently. I walked 20 km every day, faced challenges, experienced new things, and met new people. But the highlight of the trip was that throughout the whole trip, I felt at home there. And then I thought, what a priceless skill I had recently gained to pick up my rucksack, go wherever I want, and create a sense of home wherever I end up. This is freedom; this is real life.

a spiral staircase with yellow and gray colors
Photo by Cédric Stoecklin on Unsplash

Snails protect themselves. Independence also includes the skill in taking care of yourself. On that trip to the mountains, I lived in a hotel where there was a smorgasbord every morning. I usually chose a nice, warm bowl of oatmeal, boiled eggs, a few slices of cheese, and a piece of cheesecake with a cup of coffee for breakfast. Those delicious breakfasts set the stage for radical changes in my daily routine when I came back down to earth. I asked myself, why didn’t I make such breakfasts for myself at home? At that time, I was not good at cooking milk porridge, but being a stubborn Capricorn, I was determined to acquire the skill. I watched a few YouTube videos and ruined one pot, but one week later, I got the perfect mouth-watering porridge on my own. And you know, it was a game changer because having a hearty meal every day turned into the way to say to myself, “I love you, I take care of you, you are entitled to have everything you want, and everything will be fine!” I don’t wait for anybody to say this kind of words to me anymore because I can do it myself. This is my way to protect myself, and you could follow it, too, if you wish.

Snails repeatedly fall off, only to climb back up again. Hoovering every inch of the fish tank, my snail climbs up to the top of it, stays there for some time as if to celebrate its rise, and then, when it’s had enough of its own success, willingly parachutes. Every time I see it as a gentle reminder that whatever you achieve, it is OK to start everything from scratch. You are free to go up and down, left or right; you are entitled to do whatever you want with your life. In my world, there are no linear thinking habits when I move from point A to point B. My growth trajectory can be elaborate or curvy, or even changes abruptly, and it is normal. Recently, I’ve realized that I am turning 36 next January. At this age, the majority of people in Russia are usually married, bring up children, build careers or run businesses, and pay a mortgage for an apartment. I have nothing of the above; all my life can fit into one suitcase. And this begs the question of what I have been doing for almost 40 years. Mary Curie was once asked what she had been doing in her lab. “I am observing”, – she said. I think my life is about exploration and discovery, too. Like Curie, I watch the world go by doing different things, moving here and there, cherishing my personal growth, and then starting everything from scratch again. And now, at the age of 35, I am fine with it.

Snails have great potential. My aquarium hardscape is arranged with small rocks. And guess what? Every single day, I hear the sounds of the fish tank makeover. Searching for food, the snail moves the stones around, by clinging to them, pulling them, and eventually making miniatures of Stonehenge-like buildings in a 3-liter round vase. At such moments, I usually think about how much this little creature can do and how much we ignore or don’t know about ourselves and our potential. Lately, I have been pondering why my numerous attempts to run a blog have failed. Revisiting my actions, I can say that they were absolutely right, and I was absolutely right and good enough to share my vision of things with others, but I failed to remind myself about it. I lost myself in my endeavors; I lost sight of my inner beauty and authenticity in the pursuit of self-realization. But the truth is, we are all unique, and everybody has their own life path. Some think on their feet, but others, vice versa, move methodically and thoughtfully through life. Some can be as fast as lightning, but others can move only at a snail’s pace. What you need is the skill in distinguishing such features in yourself and others, and don’t compare yourself with others. Otherwise, you risk living your whole life believing that you are stupid and worthless, while in fact, you were born to be who you are and create your own meaningful journey, distinctly, beautifully different from others.