Every fish begins their life in a protected and sheltered environment. Like all good things, the protection ends and eventually, the small fry sets out on its own. I grew up a fish. At least, that’s what my parents would say.
In January of 2021, in the middle of a pandemic, I packed up all my belongings into four suitcases and boarded my flight from rainy Vancouver, BC, to snowy St. John’s, NL, a fish leaping from one ocean to the next. When I touched down on the tarmac, I couldn’t help but feel like I had made a mistake. Surely I hadn’t travelled 5,000km away from my people simply because I was fascinated by the fishing culture. I couldn’t remember why I left my sanctuary in the West for this unknown life in the East. A sanctuary, which might I add, was the very reason that I loved the sea in the first place. Not only was I embarking on this journey alone, but I was leaving behind a large part of my identity as a west coast biologist and praying that if things went sideways, it would be there to welcome me back with open arms.
Since I arrived in St. John’s, the feelings of being away from home were intense and yet short-lived – not too dissimilar to the seasons here in Newfoundland. I have lived through many new ‘firsts’ throughout the last nine months, which allowed me to grow in ways that I never thought I could. I experienced my first time driving in the snow, my first time crying while driving in the snow, my first time walking downtown and hearing all the live music echo from the bars, and my first time learning how to fish for cod – oh, excuse me, I mean jig for cod.
It took me a couple of months to settle into this new life. I felt like every time I left my house, I would get hit with all sorts of stimuli from this foreign land. Everything was different – the accents, the trees, the shrubs, the roads, the stormy seas, the colourful houses, and the wind. But as I settled into my east coast life, the stimuli became less stimulating and I felt less like an alien trying to blend in.
When I doubted my decision, I focused on the beauty of the east coast and thought about this new ocean in terms of its importance for the ecosystem. I thought about how these turbulent waters in Newfoundland are important pit stops for migrating species of whales, birds, and fish. The Atlantic is equally as important as the Pacific, and it was mine to explore. Being a fan of science and especially one of the ocean, I tend to turn to science as a tool to make me feel less anxious. Eventually, I made friends who shared similar passions and noticed that most people in my courses had made the same leap of faith as I did – it turns out I’m not the only fish. I now love the landscape here and have fallen for the bright blue water, the rolling waves, and all the cod swimming under it.
I learned that making your home is not about staying protected and sheltered but venturing into the unknown and remembering that your home goes with you. As long as there is water, this fish will always be home.