A Tale About a Whale

A very good friend of mine once said, “It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, than a small fish in a big pond.” He was referring to his Maui Wowi Hawaiian business, but I think it also applies to most anything. But it’s a funny thing about fish in bowls:  it isn’t necessarily true that a fish will only grow as large as the tank will allow.

Long ago, my parents once had a 40 gallon fish tank, in which – among the mollies, neon tetras, and tiger barbs – they kept the required bottom feeder, a Plecostomus. We called it the P-fish because we couldn’t pronounce plecostomus. It was tiny when we first brought it home from the pet store. Many years later, not so much.  In fact, my kids were able to re-dub the monster fish it had grown into “The Whale.”

Image

A reasonable facsimile of The Whale

I kid you not, this thing was immense.  At least a foot long.  It once jumped out of the tank and fell down a flight of stairs and survived. No, it thrived.  It outlived generations of fish, and probably ate quite a few of them toward the end.

When I inherited The Whale, it had to have been about 1000 years old in fish years, and it was way too big for the tank.  I contacted a local pet store to see if I could sell it or even donate it just to get rid of it. They weren’t even remotely interested.  They informed me that this particular type of fish will outgrow it’s tank every time, and I would be very lucky to find a new home for it. My only recourse? Release into the wild, serve it up for dinner, or wait for it to die. None of these options were very appealing.

I plead the 5th as to which route I took. However, IF I went with the first choice, I would have consoled myself with thoughts along the lines of, “It’s not like I released a python into the Everglades,” or “I certainly didn’t flush a baby alligator down the commode.” This thing was essentially a catfish that needed a bigger bowl, and IF I had it in me to do something as potentially illegal as introducing this creature into a foreign ecosystem, I would have taken precautions to be sure that its new home would be big enough to guarantee that we wouldn’t have a real whale to contend with in about 20 years time.  If I had gone with the second option, I would have consoled myself by thinking, “Everything tastes good fried.”  The third choice wasn’t really a choice at all.

I’m telling you this tale because, lately, I’ve begun to relate to The Whale. I’ve been feeling like a fish who has outgrown her tank, and been unexpectedly released into a much, much larger body of water (allegedly). Once I started writing, I was suddenly a minnow in an immense sea of bloggers, writers, authors, editors, and publishers.

It’s exhilarating – and scary as hell – even more so than flying had been at times.  Just like the proverbial “small fish in a big pond,” I’m going to have to learn the waters, grow, and just keep swimming – or, in my case, writing – so that one day, the sea won’t seem to be such a big, scary place after all.  Either that, or start eating mayonnaise so that I taste good on toast.

I have friends who tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book.  To them I say: “Come on in! There’s plenty of room and the water’s fine.  Just stay away from the mayo – I’m sure it’s gone bad by now.”

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