How Do You Move A Fish?

It’s a good thing I’m not a fish aficionado, because if I were, I’d have no idea how I’d have moved my precious pisci when I made my transcontinental journey from Santa Barbara to Washington. When you think about it, how does one transport an aquarium full of shimmery creatures, over long distances, without the container spilling? Aside from those demonic snakehead fish that threaten to gobble up the entire state of Maryland, gill-bearing organisms can exist only in aquatic environments–sloshing out onto the floor of one’s U-Haul is not a feasible alternative lifestyle.


So, as a responsible steward of exotic swimmies, what do you do?


By my estimation, the options are few: you can either leave ‘em behind or take ‘em along, hoping they survive.


For purposes of this post, tropical fish are not unlike some of our own presumptions about How Life Works—these beautiful and delicate marine dwellers require highly specialized environments in which to survive, and when deprived of same, will die a most malodorous death. Likewise, when we face a major shift in our personal circumstances or environment, it’s not necessarily obvious to us that we might be required to retire or adjust some of our expectations. Two easy examples: (1) holidays must be observed in a precise manner or (2) truly successful individuals can demonstrate achievement in X, Y, or Z. The “major shift” I’m referring to can be anything: living in a new place, marriage, divorce, birth, death, disease, job loss, job gain, winning the lotto—all of it involves some form of starting anew. Such change, re-booters may discover, brings with it a certain amount of fracturing to our bedrock presumptions. In terms of balance, we need to release as many behaviors or beliefs as those we now embrace.


For instance, growing up here in DC, I assumed everyone, everywhere dressed up for holiday meals. Washington is a formal town and the ladies wear dresses and the men don coats and ties. So, it was quite a surprise when I spent holidays in Texas or California to discover that a far more casual dress code accompanied these celebrations. It required an adjustment on my part to understand that turkey in jeans could be equally meaningful as turkey in trousers: one approach was not more reverent than the other. Once I was removed from the formality of life in the District, I started to appreciate the specialized environmental factors in California or Texas that encouraged a more casual approach. Each locale has its own, peculiar forms of protocol. In Santa Barbara, it wouldn’t have “enhanced the experience” had I insisted that everyone dress according to East Coast dictums. Am I making my point? A lot of our assumptions are circumstance-dependent; they depend on our specific family dynamics, they depend on the immediate cultural influences around us, and they do not, necessarily, travel well.


So, to repeat the question: how do you move a fish?

You don’t.


We all carry within us personal definitions of filial piety, a steadfast spouse, a dedicated employee, a good friend, a success, a failure. But how we arrived at these conclusions depends, somewhat, on our backgrounds, they’re not universal understandingsa fact we tend to forget. As re-booters, our concepts of who we are and how we’re going to live our lives are in flux, change is afoot and we’re trying to understand what to do about it! We are not fish who exist in a single, steady environment. As we proceed through life, we need to consider that the specialized conditions under which we previously operated may have changed, so our presumptions may no longer be valid. Let me ask you this: given that things are changing in your life, do you really need to hold onto X? Do you think everyone would agree that X is as important as you believe it is? What does this tell you?


Were we to inspect our personal U-Haul, we may spy them there—our fixed assumptions, flopping about on the grungy floor, unable to survive beyond the world we’re leaving—it may make us a bit sad or regretful or wondering if we’ve made the right move, but the truck is packed and we’ve selected our route. It might be time to let them go.



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One Response to “How Do You Move A Fish?”

  1. Grasshopper Says:

    what a fun blog! love the analogy!

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