Sunday, April 15, 2012

On Fishing and Swimming Upstream

Me, in York. Next to Water. Follow the Metaphor?

This week has been hard. At the moment, my life is in limbo. Stuck between my past and my future, the present has left me a bit confused about where I'm headed in life. Getting an interview for a job that would pay me even half of what someone with my education supposedly earns seems a task of gargantuan proportions. The past several months I've been consumed with thoughts of PhD study: writing proposals, rewriting proposals, emailing referees, emailing potential supervisors, applying for a place, applying for a scholarship, sending off a pile of words that I hope somebody will want to publish. Repeat. I've put everything I have into the process. A few days ago I received a personal email from a university, informing me that while I deserved a full scholarship that would pay my fees and living expenses while I wrote a thesis in a lovely English town, I didn't get it.

'This is not the news you deserve.' It's hard to be told you're not good enough, that your skills aren't up to scratch. But not receiving something that I've yearned and worked for, and that I apparently deserve, is more difficult to hear than any criticism I've previously been dealt. 

In short, my poor heart broke a little. Or a lot.

Don't get me wrong. I know I'm a lucky woman. I've experienced harsher difficulties in the past, and even those painful memories are a mere shadow of the injustices people the world over face on a daily basis. Today, however, I'm giving myself permission to admit that I'm struggling, that I don't like it, and that while the obstacles of others are undoubtedly worse, it doesn't make mine any easier to bear.

I'm swimming upstream.

Waiting for the catch

On Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to have a friend take me out for a lovely evening, a much needed distraction from my woes! (How's that for melodrama?!) Venturing out to the cinema, we saw Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (trailer here). Concerned with a sheik who wants to do the seemingly impossible, migrate British salmon to a habitat to which they aren't naturally suited, the film relies on the metaphor of the fish and the fisherman to explore relationships, love and life.

These particular salmon, you see, are farmed fish. The question looming over this Quixotic project is whether these fish, unaccustomed to a wild environment, will swim upstream or allow themselves to be swept down river. As I sat there in the cinema, this disappointing news weighing heavy upon me, I couldn't help but compare my situation to the metaphor of the salmon. Will I continue to swim upstream, fighting against the strength of the current, reaching for something higher? Or will I allow the currents to sweep me away?

But then, [SPOILER ALERT] a flash flood kills the vast majority of the salmon, so perhaps I don't want to compare myself to these unfortunate fish.

Perhaps I am the fisherman.

In a discussion between Fred (Ewan McGregor), a fisheries expert, and the ambitious Sheik Muhammed (played by Amr Waked), the latter asks if the former is religious. No, is the reply. 

'But you are a man of faith,' the sheik insists. Prompted by Fred's confusion, the sheik explains that fishing itself is an act of faith. A fisherman will wait patiently for hours, casting his rod time and again, merely hoping for a catch.

This bit of the movie stuck with me. Like Fred, I'm not particularly religious either, but I can get on board with the idea of faith: the belief in something that is hoped for, but not seen.

So, here I am, metaphorically casting my rod, exercising faith that something good will come out of it. Whether an amazing scholarship miraculously comes my way, I score a fantastic job, or the river steers me in a new direction I didn't see coming, I'm choosing to believe in an exciting future. Things will get better. My education will continue. Travel adventures aren't over. I know it.

I might have to stand in the strong currents of the river for a while, but sooner or later, I'm going to catch something spectacular, a catch work waiting for. 


o said...

Oh man.... I'm sorry you didn't get it, really am very sorry. Just keep going, ok? Like you said, things will get better, even if they're confusing right now. I got into a fantastic university to do my MA, was so happy. Few years down the line, and with a month to go before I finished I quit. Had thousands of pounds worth of debt, and nothing to show for it but a pile of demands, reminders, and final reminders. But actually, it DID work out for the best, it truly did.

Caro said...

I'm sorry you didn't get it. And while you're right and countless people around the world face worse things, it doesn't mean we're not allowed to wallow a little when things are going badly for us. It's hard when your dreams take some time to get to you, but I have all the faith in the world that they will get to you eventually. And maybe, it'll seem like all the wait was worth it.

Diana said...

O: Yes, I feel that way right now. Even though I did finish my MA, it doesn't seem to be doing me much good at the moment.

I'm thrilled to hear things turned out for the best for you. A) I'm glad you're happy. B) It gives me hope that I'll be similarly content soon. Thanks so much for your support! :)

Diana said...


P.S. I see you changed your profile pic to the photo of you and Trot. Love it! You look beautiful, and he really is the most adorable budgie. You two make a lovely pair. :)

Diana said...

Caro: Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement. They really mean a lot to me. I'm so glad blogging has led me to wonderful, brilliant people like you, and O, and etc., etc. :)

Cassandra said...

While I have no encouraging story to share I know exactly what it's like not to get something you justly deserve. I am sorry you didn't get the scholarship (and there couldn't have been a second's doubt you deserve it!) but try to take it like that: You get at least the recognition for your hard work, if not the reward you ought to get.
Don't lose your faith, I know you will make it eventually (and if you only get an amazing job because you impress your employer with your wits ;)
After all you are definitely the fisherman, not the fish!

Don't forget that the ones who reach the highest goals are also the ones who have to climb longest.

amanda @ simplerpastimes said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about the scholarship. That is hard. I'm in that same sort of stuck position--no job and consistently told after interviews that I "don't have enough experience" but have spent too much time in this career path to make it easy to change directions.

Here's to better futures for both of us!

Diana said...

Cassandra: Thanks for your encouragement. I really appreciate it. Now if only I could find an employer who's on the lookout for somebody with a ridiculous amount of Victorian fun facts stuck in her brain! :)

Diana said...

Amanda: I hate the experience requisite! How are we supposed to accumulate experience if we nobody will offer us experience? Such a Catch-22.

I hope things look up for you soon :)