Around four years ago, I experienced something that planted a seed. It was a difficult year – a year of challenge, a year of trauma, a year of difficulty. On both personal and professional levels, I was faced with prohibitive people, loss of a family member, and a formidable management hierarchy that governed my classroom decisions for the whole school year. It was toward the end of that year that I knew, something was going to have to change – at some point, at some time, in some way.
It was also at the end of that year that, in tradition of a parent committee, the teachers were presented with a small token to ‘show their appreciation‘ of the collaborative year. In this instance it was a simple glass bowl.
It was plain bowl, no adornments. Shallow lipped. Wide around the middle. Not very useful to hold anything, unless it was, possibly, a fish.
Given my opinion of that year, and the fact that I didn’t have a fish, I shoved that bowl to the back of the cupboard and forgot about it.
Fast forward to the end of 2011, and I suddenly find myself the unexpected owner of a purple Siamese fighting fish. Since I know he cannot live in his little box forever, I hunt around for something to put him into. Aha! The ugly and somewhat hostile glass bowl lurks behind the pretty glass jugs. And so, ‘Foosh’ has a home.
Today, Monday January 21, was the date our QLD teachers returned to work. After 18 months of deep thought and much soul-searching, I am not amongst them. I am on the receiving end of 12 months leave of absence. My time to ponder big decisions, re-evaluate personal and professional goals, deal with a health issue as well as a pressing family matter. I aim to emerge from the year wiser, healthier, and from necessity – proficient on managing a family on half the usual income.
There was much angst in making this decision.
This morning, at breakfast with a lovely friend, I disclosed that today, while my colleagues returned to empty classrooms and faced the prospect of a fresh new school year, I was facing the prospect of a fresh new nothing – for the first time in my adult life I had a clear, blank slate. I am mildly terrified, I tell her. And at the back of this is a huge, nagging doubt. Have I done the wrong thing?
“A sign“, I say. “I just need a sign“.
After breakfast, I indulge in a little gourmet grocery shopping. Better to do this now, my pennies will soon be coveted. I wander an antique market. I delight in a late lunch, a latte, and linger, simply people watching, I look for a sign or an omen, an indication that I have indeed made the right choice. Everything will be, indeed, all right.
Nothing is forthcoming. Time to head home.
As I turn the key in my back door, I am greeted with sound of water.
Drip, drip, drip.
A puddle pools below my breakfast bar. Following the source of sound, I see Foosh, swimming frantically in just a few centimeters of water. His home, the ugly, hostile, tokenistic glass bowl is beyond cracked.
A clean, perfectly even break, efficiently meandering from one lip of the bowl all the way through to the other, two sides held together by the presence of the wet weighty pebbles that line the base. The slow seepage grants freedom to the trapped water – retaining just enough to preserve the life of a Foosh -who, as it turns out – doesn’t need the ugly cracked always-remind-me-of-crappy-school-year bowl anyway.
Adaptable, he continues to thrive in change, his life-sustaining water now captured in a different kind of vessel.
There’s a lot to be learned from a fish.