What Being a Fish Means to Me: Choosing My Attitude

I have just finished reading about the Pike Place Fish Company’s work philosophy and I love it! They focus on play, being there, choosing your attitude, and making other people’s (and your own?) day. Works for me! So now I have been asked, “What does being a fish mean to me?”

This is a timely question as I have always avoided having fish as pets. I have a few rules about the animals that share my living space: 1) They need to be able to be healthy and happy living with me, 2) I need to be able to interact with them (I thought you couldn’t do this with fish) 3) I’d prefer they not have to be contained in a cage or aquarium, and 4) they should not be put at risk by the other animals living in the house – in other words, prey or food.

My 23 year old son, got a fish tank while he was in college and it came home with him when he graduated. Of course, the moment I arrived at our home in New Hampshire, where he has been living, he gladly turned over the care of the fish to me. Taking care of the four fish, and one frog, that live in the tank has already opened my eyes to a lot. First of all, I have been wrong about fish. How many times in our lives do we have to learn this lesson? That we shouldn’t judge other living beings based on what other people say about them or stereotypes. I thought fish were unresponsive, uninterested in human beings.

Each morning when I walk on to the porch “Blue fish” greets me by coming over to the corner of the tank. Sure, s/he (how can you tell and does it matter? Another lesson?) has learned to associate me with getting food but think of everything that tells me about Blue fish: he (I’m getting the male vibe and, no, not just because he’s blue, so I am going to go with the male pronoun.) is able to recognize me, he is able to learn and make associations. I also believe he is curious because he reacts to my presence even when he has just been fed. I like Blue fish and I think it is, somewhat selfishly, because I get the impression Blue fish likes me. That he is happy to see me! That is such a great feeling, isn’t it? When someone is happy to see you?

This brings me back to two aspects of the Pike Place Fish philosophy. First, that you can and should choose your attitude. I have always loved psychological existentialism (Think May and Frankl, not Camus and Sartre) and the belief that we cannot always choose what happens to us in life but we can choose how we respond. I find this way of thinking takes us all from being victims to being agents of our own lives. We get to decide how we respond to events, people, animals. And why not be joyful? Playful? Glad to see people, like Blue fish? It feels good on both the giving and receiving end. You feel good and you may make someone else feel good, or “make their day.” Existentialism also encourages mindfulness, being fully present in the present. Giving each moment, each person, your full attention. Not worrying about the past or the future, which will distract you from the present.

I’m not sure if this is what fish and/or fish throwers experience but either way, I’m all in!

About The Author

Elizabeth “Whiz” Hutchinson, M.Ed.