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  • jeniferfoster2

It's okay to be a grouper

Updated: May 31, 2023

The other day I was swimming along Newman’s Wall (this is where I dive most days that I’m diving by myself). The wall is flush with fish and coral. It’s about 200 feet tall. I love to dive alongside it, because of its vastness. I enjoy watching the fist and looking at the various types of coral and grass.

The fish on the reef are diverse. On any given day, I can see hundreds of chromis, hamlets and parrotfish. I can generally spot goatfish, butterfly fish and squirrelfish. I’m not the best at spotting the smaller guys (“macro” as it is commonly referred as, because of photography); however, I have spotted nudibranchs, seahorses and blennies. There are one or two pufferfish that can often be spotted, and many lobsters and crab, and the occasional eel.

What amuses me about most fish are the stories in my head of what they are doing. Have you ever watched people at the airport? Some are walking quickly, some are just poking along. Others are talking hurriedly. Others are immersed in long drawn-out conversations. Some are reading books or playing on their phones.

Fish are similar. Some are poking along. Others are chasing each other. I often see fish seemingly flirting with each other; swimming next to each other, and doing things like bumping in to the other to get his attention. Many are in big schools, looking like they are headed off to work, or they are having a big meeting. Since many of my solo dives are in the morning or evenings, I imagine the fish with little briefcases, scurrying their way to make sure they are home for dinner. On occasion, I’ll spot a fish napping (sometimes under the desk, erm in the coral).

But, on this particular dive, I took note of a large grouper. He was silver spotted. He looked so grumpy. He had a big frown on his face, and he plodded along the wall all by himself. I am guessing he was probably hunting for food; but, in my mind, he was off on a walk to clear his head from the day’s nonsense: irritated by the stupidity of so much of it.

I watched him as he swam along. As he approached, many of the other fish would swim away, or hide in the coral. Some ducked into holes or blended into their background. He was truly on his own: not even another grouper came to join him.

But, this grouper got me thinking about people. You see, I have a philosophy that we all have our own ways of keeping other people emotionally distant from us. Some people are very emotional, some need constant reassurance, some use angry outbursts, but some people are just quiet. I mean – we’ll all seen that person. Right? The one who walks around by themselves. They don’t really yell or storm around, but they don’t go out of their way to be social either. They are hardly ever seen with a lot of other people, but they aren’t mean.

Ultimately, what I decided was that, the grouper wasn’t grumpy. He is a fish. What in the world would he be grumpy about? So, that judgment about how he is feeling, or why is swimming by himself is 100% on me. It has more to do with my state of mind than the fish’s.

But, we do that all the time to people. We assume what someone else is thinking or feeling based on what they say (or don’t say), and

the expression on their face. We often think that it has everything to do with us (they are skulking around because they are angry with me; they don’t like me; they are always grumpy). But, the truth is, we don’t know unless we ask. We can’t really know anything about anyone else unless they tell us. Even friends. Even family.

In my life, I am both guilty of this and been on the other side of it. I assume I know who someone is because of how they act or how they interact with me. But, most people are internally motived. I mean – not in a selfish

way. But, as people, we spend most of the time thinking about ourselves – and the things rotating in our world. I.e. How am I going to pay XXX bill, when am I going to graduate, when am I going to fall in love, what am I going to do if my spouse gets sick (etc)?

We can’t assume we know what anyone else is thinking, because we probably don’t. Good or bad.

Likewise, people should not assume about us. I’ve had people in the past tell me that they thought I was stuck up or mean. I don’t think I’m either. But, I am a little shy, and definitely reserved. So, I can sometimes stay to myself until I get to know you. I’m not thinking terrible things about you; I just don’t always feel like putting myself out there because ultimately, I’m an introvert, and doing so takes effort and vulnerability on my part.

But, the poor grouper! Why do we judge so much? Maybe he is just going through his day, minding his own business, thinking about what is coming. Maybe his wife is sick and he is worried how he is going to handle it? Maybe he just lost his job and he is wondering how he is going to feed his kids. Perhaps he is just a fish, swimming in the ocean, without a thought in the world. Maybe he is just a fish.

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