The Goldfish Bowl: Jump Out and Live a Little!CHARACTERS, EUROPE, GUEST BLOGGERS — By Julian Easterly on June 12, 2012 at 01:12
By guest blogger Julian Easterly. Photos Copyright © Julian Easterly. Le Bookshop photos courtesy Dario Viallet.
I HAPPEN TO LIVE, by chance, in Montpellier, France. Needless to say, that is amazing in itself. But baguettes, cheese and wine aside, nothing surprises like hearing two sixty-something women discuss the intricacies of certain weed side effects.
No, not those munchies. I am talking about weed munchies. It’s when you are hungry—uh—no, you are not really hungry. It’s just your mind tricking you into thinking you are hungry.
Now that my courses at the university are finished for the summer, I spend a lot of time at Le Bookshop, a bookshop owned by my Friend Dario and his girlfriend Marit. I absolutely love those select Fridays when this particular book club of elderly English and French women meet.
I wear my headphones to keep them from thinking they are disturbing me. I listen for hours without making a word but every now and then I raise an eyebrow at a comment about narcotics; I scratch my head and wonder what translating Victoria’s Secret catalogs has to do with the Bronte sisters; and I smirk in satisfaction at their confirmations.
(At the end of the meeting today, one of the ladies expressed her eagerness to start reading Toni Morrison. The others nodded in agreement when she asserted that “Toni Morrison is the best living writer.” Love it!)
From the passage under discussion, I couldn’t decipher what had infuriated these women. I’ll have read the book and get back to you on that. But what I did find interesting was the 12-year-old narrator. She’s a conceited brat who is as irrational as she is sensible. This is the same girl who states that people “aim for the stars” but that all adults would eventually “end up like goldfish in a bowl.”
Does this “bowl” exist?
It’s a pretty frightening thought to take something as vast as life and confine it within a fishbowl. I don’t believe I’m swimming in it yet, but the threat is real. The fishbowl is the monotony that causes marriages to fail and 30-year-old crises. It’s swimming in circles through your own shit and seeing the same plastic castle every forty-five seconds that leads to dissatisfaction with jobs or life in general.
I am 22 years old. I have friends my age who are trapped—who swim in circles.
Is There a way to avoid the “bowl”?
I was living a pretty mundane life in Terre Haute, Indiana when I remembered how I was once like that little girl in the novel. I woke up saturated in morning sunlight and, for some reason, I remembered the days when I would tell my mom that I wanted to leave; that I would travel far from here; that I would build friendships with people of different cultures.
What happened? Why had I decided to settle? From that moment on, it was a race to rediscover that drive. Maybe I couldn’t avoid the bowl . . . but what if I could prolong having to go to it? If I was destined for the bowl, was it possible to extend its boundaries or add scenery?
Student loans catch up to you. A job keeps you busy. Family adds responsibility. Diseases ail you. Age slows you down. A close friend passes. And before you know it you are pushing seventy and starting arguments at book club meetings. Sometimes, that is what life is like.
However, it is up to you to decide how vast will be the environment in which you swim. Travel a lot and read good books. Meet a sexy girl or a handsome guy and learn another language. Learn to salsa. Live with a farmer in Thailand and help sow the fields. Open doors, follow where they lead you, and leave your regrets at the door mat.
I mean, what do you have to lose if you might end up in a fishbowl anyway?———
After finishing college, JULIAN EASTERLY decided to try his luck in Montpellier, France. He is not quite sure where or how he will find success. Maybe it’s in living in France or in finding a job that allows him to travel and write. Whatever it is, he will keep you posted. Julian writes at Between the Breaths, a blog that attempts to combine travel and philosophy, and tweets as @betweenbreaths.