Betsy Riley, William W. Taylor, and So-Jung Youn
Joining the world of fisheries is sort of like being invited out for your first-ever trip salmon fishing on a charter boat on Lake Michigan. (We’ll call the charter boat service Old Grin.) At face value, it sounds like the best way to spend a morning that you can imagine. You get to go out on a boat on Lake Michigan. It’s the chance to hang out with people who you think are probably the coolest people in creation, but you would never actually tell them this. And, perhaps most important, it is your chance to catch a really big fish with only your hands and a fishing rod.
You are excited. You are a little nervous. So you pack your sunscreen and granola bars and bottled water. And, just in case, some Dramamine. And you head out at some ridiculous hour of the morning to prove that you know something about fishing.
When you arrive, everything looks exactly like it should, but then you are promptly greeted by multiple people who give you their names that your tired brain (it is 5:00 in the morning, after all) cannot seem to hold onto. You don’t really know anyone yet, but everyone seems to know each other, and as the new kid, they all remember you. You have never done this before and have only the faintest idea what you are doing. And there is that little voice inside you that, despite your brave face and bravado, does not actually believe that you can pull 17 pounds of fighting salmon over the side of the boat using only a long piece of wood with some twine and a reel attached.
This is life’s mandatory first step. Whether the event is a fishing trip or a conference. Whether your tool is a fishing rod or a grant proposal. Whether you’re with people who support you or trying to go it alone. No matter the journey, we all start here. Fresh-faced with our backpack full of random stuff that we hope will prepare us for what lies ahead. Our hearts filled with hope and enthusiasm, but also trepidation and self-doubt and fear because the future is unknown and the problems that we are facing are so much bigger than a tiny human with hope and a backpack.
It is our choice to take on these challenges. Many choose not to. Many would rather not risk making an idiot of themselves, revealing to others, just at that moment, that they might not have the knowledge and skills to succeed. They would rather not be around a lot of people that they have never met. They would rather not be sore in the morning. And so many never catch that first fish. As amazing as pulling that fish on board is, it is not so much the fish, but the decision to catch the fish, the determination to get up at a ridiculous hour of the morning and board that boat, and the persistence needed to keep reeling, long after you were ready to give up, that separates those who have resilience and those who do not.