Ever felt like a little fish in a big pond? Ah, yes. Ever felt like you were navigating dangerous waters? Yup. And if you have big dreams? What if those big dreams mean taking chances, feeling vulnerable, and protecting yourself any way you reasonably can?
Maybe you get creative. You don the necessary uniform. You equip yourself with technology. You put up a formidable front — bluster, bravado, a brave face — whatever you need to compete, even if at times it feels like you’re an imposter, a fish out of water, and you worry that you’ll be caught in currents you can’t quite contain.
Stuffed to the gills with good intentions (and advice from non-pescatarian pals), you venture forth even if it means you’ll be swimming with the sharks.
We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
In a first job. In a new career. At an important social event.
In the dating pool.
So what do you notice when you first glance at the image of the goldfish above? Is he foolhardy? Funny? A little guy with big ambitions passing himself off as a predator? Is he a trawler of tadpoles, safe in a shallow bowl, lost to delusions of grandeur?
No, this isn’t a quiz from which to extrapolate your world view. I’m just having a bit of fun! And, having found this impish image, I’m floating a few thoughts that bubbled up when I saw it.
My very first impression?
I thought: “Ah, like the iceberg. You never know what lies beneath the surface.” (A good reminder of this cardinal rule: Never assume.)
My next impression?
I thought this fine fellow was headed into hazardous waters — determined, valiant, ambitious — protecting himself any way he could.
Only after those impressions did I consider the usual comparisons we so often make… you know the ones I mean… the rewards and challenges of being a “big fish in a little pond” versus a “little fish in a big pond.” I’ve had experience at both; my comfort in each has always been a matter of point-in-time circumstances.
That, too, is a lesson for me — the ways in which we are at ease (or not), successful (or not) — these are frequently a function of evolving environments, factors beyond our control, and who we are at a specific stage or juncture.
Now, you might be murmuring to yourself that we all have bigger fish to fry than considering how we interpret this picture, and I agree. Then again, before you cast your attention elsewhere and bob away, peek at this variation.
What do you see? Isn’t the water deeper? The distance potentially greater? Is this a different kettle of fish?
I know, I know. I’m (cough)… fishing. Okay, I’ll let you off the hook and offer this.
I can imagine myself that little fish, partly because I’m a small person in a much, much taller world. I can also empathize — yes, empathize. In my lifetime, I’ve lost count of the occasions demanding that I draw from my own depths, that I cultivate my inner chameleon, and that I call upon qualities of character just to keep afloat.
Now, consider this view of our plucky chum.
Doesn’t perspective change? Don’t the challenges ahead loom larger?
Here’s my drift…
If we only look at the surface of things, we will never understand them. If we look too closely or too quickly, without taking a step back for a broader view, our understanding is equally incomplete. If we bring only one perspective of a situation to the fore, we may miss plausible and invaluable alternatives. And if we find ourselves as that little fish in a big pond with big dreams, we owe ourselves and those who rely on us the courage to persist.
Lest you find yourself feeling green around the gills from my Friday fish story, I’ll quickly clam up and, letting you (and myself) off the hook, I’ll offer this — my final impression of our guileless golden guy:
I’m imagining he’s headed across the pond — a big pond — in celebration of France’s famed Bastille Day, le 14 juillet, likely lured by this provocative petite poisson who awaits his arrival, hoping to reel him in…
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