Goldfish

There was a myth that goldfish have a three-second memory, beginning perhaps with the supposition that for a creature to not commit suicide after having to swim around a tiny glass bowl for hours, it would have to forget experiencing it the first time around, and look at the bowl anew in each circuit. Which of course implies an equally short attention span. This has led to the occasional comparison between myself and a goldfish (totally unfounded, I’ve never been known to get distrachey look at this cool thing!

There’s two problems with the three-second memory myth. One: being a glass bowl, it’s fairly transparent, and there’s a whole world beyond the confines of the fishbowl to look at. Two: it’s been empirically proven that goldfish can retain information for at least three to five months (by you know, real-sciencey folks, but also by the Mythbusters, and since they’re on TV, they HAVE to be right). Ironically, this time span is a length that I can relate to. Three to five months is just about the time it takes me to officially hate any job.

At least, this has been my experience to the present. Also, “hate” maybe a bit of a strong word. At the three month point, the honeymoon is over and I begin to fail at ignoring or excusing the negatives. As someone who has skipped around jobs, it’s also always easy for me to remember the freedom of being unemployed – or a writer, in other words. Right now, I’m working in the industry I want to work in, for a reasonable amount of money, at least enough to live on, and it’s actually a pretty good job, though the hours can be a little crazy. And still I can’t wait to leave.

About a month ago, I started getting restless an went on a mad spree of trip-planning – finally doing Route 66, traveling to New Orleans, living in Ireland for a few months. I actually started to look up flights and hotels and imagine myself in a little Irish cottage flirting with the black-haired, blue-eyed neighbor with a charming Irish lilt (because I’m sure that this is what Ireland actually is, this is not at all a romanticized fantasy – also, the movies have taught me that this is what all Irish men look like). I’ve managed to quash the desire to pick up immediately and fly half way around the world, but I’ve still got plans just waiting to go, and I still feel that tug.

Objectively, I have to see how I’m being a little childish about this, which is why I haven’t turned down the much needed source of income and left this perfectly good job. But I do feel like I’ve stalled out, like everything is on hold just waiting for this job to end. I had plans and routines that I wanted to start which seem difficult to do, either because I’m up north, or because I’m working 12-hour days, and since it’s been a distinct possibility this job would end every week since January, it was easy to defer until I was back in LA. And while there is some merit in that, I also do have to recognize that if I want to do something, I just have to do it. This job may have made it easier, but ultimately I’m the one who allowed myself to get stuck in this holding pattern. Which is a realization I hate, because as far as I’m concerned, nothing is ever my fault.

At any rate, I’ve been struggling the last couple of days with the strong pull to walk away from my job. But ultimately, I don’t feel I can walk away from the extra cash I’ll be able to squirrel away (or realistically speaking SPEND WILDLY IN A CRAZY SPREE OF JOY!!!), and I can’t ignore the nagging feeling that it may just be my goldfish attention span, wandering off to the next big exciting thing. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the feeling of being stuck, of not moving forward. But I guess it’s a matter of perspective.

All photos in this post are part of the goldfish orchestra series, photographed by Wang Qian and Zhang S F. See more at angs.org. The site is in Chinese but if you translate it, there’s a cool explanation of how these fish were actually musical. Check it out.
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