There was a theory I was told about animals whose quarters are too small for them. I was told that an animal cannot outgrow their surroundings. For example, a fish will not outgrow the size of its tank. But then I was told this is not true. I was told the size of our confinement does not change our DNA and that growth is inevitable.
I write this to you, not because I had a little fish that grew too big for my fish tank, which I did, by the way—the fish started off much smaller than the others. And the fish was bullied for a while. Until the fish grew larger. This is when the other fish took notice. The other fish tried to bully the smaller fish but its growth could not be stopped. Eventually, the other fish that were once aggressive had no choice but to submit. Even the smaller fish who never bullied at all—even they had to pay for this.
I am not writing this about fish or my old fish tank. This is not about science. However, this is definitely about growth and outgrowing our surroundings.
There comes a time when we outgrow ourselves. There comes a time when we outgrow our jobs and our surroundings. Similar to the fish tank, there are some communities where size or the ability to grow is not a problem. There are communities and surroundings that support growth—and of course, there are communities that see growth as a threat. Just like the fish tank, there are communities and community leaders who see growth as a direct threat to them or to the safety of their positions—so they try and keep growth to a minimum. This way, nobody outgrows them.
I suppose the toxic result of this is despair. I suppose like a bird in a cage that’s too small for its wings; if we outgrow our surroundings, we never have the chance to spread out wings. We can never fly or show how incredible we’ve become. Maybe this is why the little fish in my fish tank went from meek to aggressive. There wasn’t enough room. The others in its community were too busy trying to keep it from growing to its size. Maybe this is why at the end, the fish was alone—no one else in the tank survived, except for him. The fish ended up alone in the tank and seemed equally unhappy.
There comes a time when we realize our growth. There comes a time when we look at our surroundings and see that we need room. We have outgrown our old ourselves. But with no hopes to find a place with room to grow, we often turn inward. We can be resentful. We can be hard on ourselves, yet, even though opportunities will arise, there is fear that keeps us stuck in our little old cage.
It is said that some animals do not realize the size of their cages. It is said that this is all they know. I can see how this relates to us as “The human animal.” We can live uncomfortably for our entire lifetime because this is all we know.
At some point, we become aware of ourselves. We become aware of our growth and our size and at some point, we can find ourselves resentful because we stayed this way for much too long.
Maybe we resent the fact that we never took a chance to move on. Maybe we are resentful because no one in our surroundings bothered to let us know. “There’s more for you out there.” Or, like crabs in the bucket, maybe we are resentful because each time we tried to climb out of our surroundings, there was always someone around, looking to pull us back in; as if to say, I’m not going into the pot alone. “If I’m going down, everyone around me is going down with me.”
I am older now. I am a few weeks from my 49th birthday and yet, I am still so young and in some ways, I am even younger than I was a few years back. I am on the verge of change. I am on the verge or looking for new surroundings, which I admit is strange for me. I have been living in and supporting a system of life that I have outgrown. The bitch of it is, not everyone is welcoming of a new fish in their community. The bitch of it is, people see growth as a threat.
But I am no threat. I’ve just outgrown my surroundings. I need more. I want more too but not at the expense of somebody else. I am not a caged bird nor am I Maya Angelou who explains why the caged bird sings.
I’m only a man.
I am someone who wants to grow. I want to sing too. I want to laugh and dance and feel the sun on my face. I want to feel the world, the same as everybody else. I want to move beyond the walls of my limitations. I want to go. I want to run. I want to see things and experience life. I want to step out of my old surroundings and not be so afraid that I turn back to the old “Uncomfortable” comforts. More than anything, I do not want to fight so hard and like the fish in my tank, I don’t to find myself alone because everything became a fight. Know what I mean?
It is the end of August. In two days’ time, September will upon us. Soon enough, the leaves in New York will change. Soon enough, the landscapes will change their faces. I will be another year older and my surroundings will be another day smaller. In which case, the question becomes if not now, then when?
I choose now.
I have a client who gets me to clean their fish tank (not my favourite job). It is obvious the tank is too small for the gold fish. She buys them as little baby fish, they grow from 3cm to over 10cm. Then the tank gets dirty much more often. She ends up transferring the fist to a marine center who have a large pond for fish who can no longer be sustained by their owners. They have told her so many times that the tank she has is for tiny little fish – I think minims? Something very small that won’t grow like goldfish grow. But she still wants goldfish. I find it all slightly odd.
Recently I saw some bizarre pictures on line of goldfish which had been freed in the wild by their owners and had grown bigger than rugby balls. I had no idea they could grow so big.
I know your post is not really about fish, but your analogy makes a lot of sense!