To be nobody but yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ee cummings
Once there was a penguin, Vivian by name, whose brief expedition into the limelight literally changed my life.
Let me explain.
Vivian was one of a group of young male Adelies who got caught up in an oil slick. Some of you are going to want to know the where of this, I’ve just realized. I don’t know. They were penguins, there was a coast and ocean involved. Ask anybody who knows me about my damaged sense of direction – oh, never mind. Let me go on.
Once the penguins were cleaned up and restored to health, each was given a name, equipped with a transmitter, and turned loose to swim south to the great penguin breeding grounds. (Where? South. Somewhere.) Regular progress reports, gleaned from the positions given by their individual transmitters, were posted on a map on a website so interested humans could monitor their journey.
My friend Jamie – who had a gift for finding things like this – brought the website to my attention when he noticed an interesting thing: Vivian, from the beginning, swam a meandering, circuitous route that went every way but South. We made jokes for awhile, about Vivian the ADHD penguin with no attention span and an attraction to shiny fish. But by the end, when the transmitter gave out and Vivian was lost to us forever, he had become, for us, an icon.
Last seen, Vivian had stopped swimming in circles and was headed quite decidedly North.
Against expectation, instinct, and all penguin traditions, this particular little creature chose a completely unexpected course. And, for me, the words Swimming North took on a whole new meaning.
Swimming North means writing the stories that come to me, even when they don’t seem to fit the publishing trends. It means speaking truths that might be unpopular. It means working to be myself, even when that self seems not to fit well into the culture of the world I live in.
Jamie has since left me to swim somewhere where no map has ever been charted. I confess that, at times, I find myself swimming in circles, caught up in random currents, distracted by shiny fish. But I hope the detours will be temporary. When my time comes to move on into whatever reality lies beyond the horizon, I expect to make the transition while still determinedly Swimming North.