Life in the Tank

Today’s inspiration from Mark Nepo is about life in the tank. He shares the story of a friend’s fish. The man placed the fish in the big tub of water so he could clean the tank. Upon going to retrieve the fish, he noticed that the fish stayed huddled together, in a space no bigger than their tank. Mark poses the question: do we confine ourselves in this same way? Do we live within the confines that our family and schooling taught us? Do we select careers based on those confines? Do we automatically decide against careers that are outside those confines?

The past few years, with two grown boys/men, we’ve had a lot of discussions regarding schooling and careers. The oldest son was prepared to follow in his father’s footsteps of attending a trade school. He wasn’t thrilled about it, and he was exploring his options. I encouraged him to try out some engineering classes in high school. They were new classes, but I knew engineering was a very promising career with many possibilities, but I really knew nothing more of it. He did take the classes. And while he found them satisfactory, I don’t think he was overall impressed because it was new curriculum and he felt that the teacher was about 2 days ahead of the class in the learning curve.  But he decided, since he wasn’t interested in trade school, to explore colleges offering engineering programs. since he grew up around engines and motorcycles and trucks, he decided to explore mechanical engineering. he really enjoyed the aspects of the hydraulic power engineering program and learned that the community college offered a 2+ year AAS program. He enrolled. Along the way, he spoke with others in the program, many who had first gotten thei mechanical engineering BS degree and now were being sent back to school by their employers to gain more education in the hydraulic program. They also encouraged him to enroll in the CAD Design AAS program, which he did. This spring, he will graduate with two degrees and the opportunity to find a job anywhere in teh world. He is considering the option of moving out west, where he has more free-time, fun-time chances to play. He is looking outside the tank.

The younger son didn’t care to live in the tank for as long as he has been alive. He set his sights on the end goal, and made a plan that works toward that end point. He is on that journey right now. He moved out of the house the minute he turned 18, while still in high school. He took a year off after high school to work and figure out what to do next. A friend’s untimely death from cancer made him realize life is too short and he needed to have new experiences and live life to its fullest. he enrolled in college the following year, and determined to live the freshman lifestyle. Of course, that has consequences, which means that he needed to take off a semester and work full time. He recently enrolled in college again, and he now has goals that go beyond having the college lifestyle. When he enrolled in college, he told me, “I will be in school for about 6 years, Mom.” He is right on track. He is not going into a trade, like his dad, and he is not going into education, like his mom. He wants to start his own business, like his uncles, and he has recently figured out what that business might be. He lives outside the tank, but comes back to visit us on occasion. Family is important to him, but he recognizes the need to be independent.

As we examine our own lives, we can ask ourselves, are we living in a fish tank? Are we limiting our experiences based on what we have been raised and told to experience?

Something to ponder…

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