Of Magikarps and Shrink-wrap

fish-illustration-c

I’ve been thinking a lot about metaphors these days. Maybe it’s a leftover habit from my days at as Lit student, but when I look at something, I end up trying to view it from another perspective.

I downloaded Pokémon Go a while ago. I’m not a particularly competitive person so the fun for me was just collecting all the creatures and giving them the most ridiculous names I could think of. Example below.

On Sunday, I caught a Magikarp, and for the uninitiated, it’s an orange fish-like creature with bulging eyes and a gawping mouth. As if that wasn’t a silly enough description already, its’ default mode is to flop about on land despite being a water-type Pokemon. It’s kind of pathetic to look at, especially since I caught it right next to a canal. But still, my newly-Christened Moby is doing well, and I weirdly feel like I’ve taken in some sad little stray because it’s so utterly useless.

You wouldn’t think it, but this flopping, gawping fish evolves into a huge Gyarados, a powerful serpentine creature. Supposedly, the inspiration for the dramatic evolution stems from Chinese legend that carp who leap over the Dragon Gate of the Yellow River would turn into dragons. Since the Dragon Gate is rumoured to be the top of a large waterfall, the transformation is symbolic of the carp’s hard work and perseverance, despite the odds being stacked against it.

I think you see where I’m going with this.

Similarly, I recently worked at a warehouse for a temp job, where I spent hours with my team going through pallets of stock. Lifting heavy boxes is about as exciting as you can imagine, but the worst part for me was dealing with giant rolls of cling-film (plastic wrap, for any American-English readers.) I’m not talking about the flimsy things you use in the kitchen that somehow always get static and sticks to your clothes. These were huge industrial rolls weighing about 15kg- I genuinely wasn’t able to lift a new one, though admittedly I lack any muscle whatsoever.

The thing I really hated about the cling-film was that it was so annoying. New pallets would arrive with the boxes tightly wrapped and we would have to tear off the plastic to reach the stock. The interesting thing about cling-film is that the more you try to pull it off in one go, the stronger it gets. If you grab one end and pull, the plastic bunches together and makes a tight roll that’s impossible to snap, even if you’re using your entire body weight against it. The key is to pry it apart bit by bit until the plastic gets so thin it rips. In essence, you can’t rush it. Admittedly the metaphor I’m trying to convey here falls apart if you use scissors, but let’s conveniently ignore that for now.

My point is that some things in life take time. They take patience and determination and sheer stubbornness to keep going. The cling-film doesn’t snap if you yank at it with all your strength. You take the time to pull it apart until it gives.

Likewise, the carp does not turn into a dragon by jumping into a puddle, it swims upstream, against currents and driftwood. It gets battered by everything that’s forcing it to turn back. The carp, a creature built to glide smoothly forward, climbs a waterfall.

This isn’t supposed to be some kind of inspirational post, because quite frankly I would make a terrible motivational speaker. But if anything, I hope you think of yourself as that carp. The legend never states if the carp knew it would turn into a dragon. Maybe it just went against the current because it didn’t want to follow where everyone else was going. Or maybe there was some part of the carp that wanted to leap over the Dragon Gate just to see if it could. There’s a lot of advice out there to stop thinking about the destination, and appreciate the journey itself. I wouldn’t say I disagree, but I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with focusing on reaching the Dragon Gate, either. After all, if you’re just a simple carp, why wouldn’t you want to become something bigger? Of course there’s nothing wrong with staying with your river-mates and living out life in the shallows. But if you want to make that journey, inch by inch, despite the odds, then by all means, keep your eye on the prize. It would be so easy to let go and allow the river to wash you back to where life wants you. It’s up to you whether you decide to keep going.

And that is what makes all the difference.

Best wishes,

Jia

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