A Fish Out OF Water

I’m not much of a fisherman, but as summer draws to a close, I thought a fishing story might be in order.

Our daughter Julia and husband Ryan spent a month and a half at the cabin with us this summer. (The teaching profession has some advantages!). While on the pontoon boat touring the perimeter of Round Lake, a boat about 50 yards ahead of us got a nice fish on. I cut the motor so as not to disturb them. Turns out, it was a big one! We could see large splashes as the fish repeatedly surfaced in attempts to free itself from the hook. After some time, the fisherman prevailed, netting what looked like a large northern pike. After holding it up, he released the fish back into the lake.

That’s not the interesting part of the story.

Julia has compassion for all creatures. She won’t even squash a bug. Unsurprisingly, she’s no fan of fishing. It was therefore strange to observe her silently watching the entire spectacle. As I slipped the boat back into gear, I commented that it was nice that the fish was released, to which she replied: “Just imagine…, you’re hungry, you take a bite of food, and suddenly you are fighting for your life in a world you didn’t know existed!”

I had never thought of fishing in that way before, but her comment resonated in a broader context.

I was fortunate to work twenty-two years for the company that hired me straight out of college. During that time, I learned the nuances of my functional role and the cultural norms of the organization. Cultural norms are like the water a fish swims in, unnoticed until it matters most. When the company was sold and merged into another firm, I found myself in a culture I didn’t understand. I was a fish out of water, struggling to survive.

Before that experience, I hadn’t given much thought to what it must be like to be Black/Hispanic/Asian in a white society, or a woman in a male powered culture or LGBTQ in a straight community. I am aware there are issues, but having genuine empathy for what it’s like to be in another world is different.

People have strong and divergent views on equality in America. Most fall into two categories:

(1). To believe making one’s way is an individual responsibility and that anyone can be successful through self-discipline and hard work.


(2). To believe systematic bias excludes individuals based on race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Julia’s comment raised a third category I previously ignored:

(3). To simply be hungry and struggling for existence in a world not understood.

Opinions may differ, but where we stand inescapably defines who “We” are.

Fundamental Principle: Following the wisdom awareness reveals.
Essential Question: Have you ever been “a fish out of water?”

Link To Previous Posts: https://tim-coats.com/posting-briefs/

5 Replies to “A Fish Out OF Water”

  1. Tim, I love this writing of yours best! Julia’s story about the fish and how you have linked it to marginalized people is both simple and profound. Thank you! By the way, I am for sure in Julia’s camp about fishing, and couldn’t agree with you more on the assumption we all have that our place in the world is not different from others; when in reality those of us who live with and in white privilege have no idea how it is to live in skin of a different color. Awareness must extend beyond our own selves! Thanks for this.


  2. Tim—- another very good one !!!

    Historically, I have been more of a # 1 defined person. As I have gotten older and albeit maybe a bit wiser, I have noticed that I do have # 2 tendencies towards the thought that while the phrase in # 1 says ” anyone can be successful”, I do not doubt for a minute that it is sometimes much more difficult to be successful if one finds oneself in “waters” controlled by individuals or a culture that sees those other groups of people as negatively different due to things that do not have anything to do with the tasks at hand—ie, gender, color of skin, religious beliefs, etc.

    One last additional thought for Julia and her fish—- that fish did not get that big without consuming lots of other little fish— Just sayin.


    1. Yea! The funny thing about aging is that I have become less opinionated, less set in my ways, and more accepting….Dylan captured how I feel… “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now!”.



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