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Periaktoi Writing Post

Volume 55
Issue 1

Single Visual Art Post

  • Essay
A Fish Trapped In a World of Trees
Finley Smith


Albert Einstein once said, ”Everybody's a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” His words of wisdom are ones that we should live by. We should not judge others on what they can’t do; instead, we should encourage them to excel in what they can do. I believe that fish shouldn’t be forced to climb trees.

Growing up, I was always discouraged because the way I would read or write was different from the traditional way of teaching. Because I learned differently, my teachers assumed that I didn't understand what I was reading. I felt alone and lost in the words that I couldn’t yet read. I was trapped in a world of boxes, lined up neatly side by side with no room for error. And when I didn’t fit perfectly into my square, I was simply left behind. 

I was pulled from class to do rote memorization exercises. I had to spend my time circling the prefixes and suffixes in a word. But what is the point of a language if not to convey the meaning? I witnessed amazing episodes of bizarre behavior and breathtaking cluelessness when people simply couldn’t recognize my struggles. I ended some days literally in tears from the lack of cognizance from my teachers and peers. This kind of experience makes a teenage girl skeptical about self-worth, and I got to thinking I would never meet the expectations of the status quo. 

Then I began to submit to the tests; I felt hollow and deserted like a black stone under the blue sea. I started to think that I would never get to where they wanted me to be or that I was stupid; they made me feel like I didn't have a choice or that I was alone.

I know now that those tests which surrounded my whole life were never tracking the time or effort that I would spend trying my hardest to pass the class. Today we don't need people who get perfect scores; we need people who are innovators, creators, and independent thinkers. We need strong leaders and people that will give their all to everything. 

But age has also brought some humility. Partly, it’s that I went out and made some breathtakingly boneheaded mistakes of my own, like giving up on myself. I know that I see and process things differently from my peers, but now I know that I shouldn't limit myself because of the way I find the solution. We need people that will make their own paths and not follow someone else's. This world needs to be more accepting in schools and in the way people learn. I believe in uniqueness. I believe in change, and I believe fish shouldn’t be forced to climb trees.