As Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day says, “I believe I’m a walking contradiction.” And I am. Actually, I am full of contradictions. I am a perfectionist, but I have several hobbies
I’m not good at. I dislike crafting, but I like to scrapbook. I prefer print books, but I write an online blog. I really want to be more independent, but I text my mom every day asking questions about simple things like doing laundry or ordering things online. I enjoy being alone, but I still like to have an animal around to make me feel loved.
Over the summer, this animal was my dog, Reggie. Unfortunately, Reggie lives with my parents an hour away from my new apartment, so I cannot see him every day like I did
over the summer. I can’t bury my head in his fur or hug him when I’m sad or panicky. I miss the way he made me feel unconditionally loved, which made all the responsibilities of looking after a dog well worth it.
Well, as you can imagine, about two days after moving into my apartment, I missed having a pet around. I needed something to look forward to when I got up in the morning, and something to take care of (besides my plants, who cannot show me love).
At first, I was stumped. My apartment doesn’t allow pets. So I toyed around with the idea of getting an emotional support cat or dog. This process was too complicated, and besides, I would feel guilty leaving a dog in an apartment all day. I crossed that idea off the list. Then I thought I might just get a plant that requires more work. I have Gerald the cactus, and Emmett the succulent—both of which do not require a lot of attention. I thought more about how not-green my thumb was—so not-green that it was probably red—and, again, crossed the idea off the list.
Then—ding!—I had a bright idea. I remembered my sister owning a betta fish in college, and thought, “Hey, I should get one of those!” So I found the nearest fish store (titled,
wait for it… The Fish Store), dragged my friend Bekah along with me, and bought a dark blue betta fish that can only be described with one word: handsome. (I’m telling you, my fish is a STUD.)
I immediately named him Chester (after an obscure Sky High character), got all of the supplies I would need on recommendation from the store employees, and headed out with my boy all safe and sound in his little plastic bag. I took my time putting the rainbow rocks in the tank, making sure the tap water was clean, and then finally plopping Chester into his new home. Now, he sits on my desk and keeps me company while I do the most stressful thing currently plaguing my life—homework. I’ve put him through the trauma of two tank cleanings (I am horrendously clumsy when I try to clean the tank), fed him a few more pellets than I should (because I give him treats like he’s a dog), and competed in multiple staring contests with him (all of which I’ve lost—he doesn’t blink!).
Even though a fish isn’t the most cuddly or affectionate of pets, I do feel like Chester loves me. He swims over when I put my face close to the tank and will get close to my finger if I don’t startle him. I say good morning to him (I’m not crazy! If talking to dogs isn’t crazy, then talking to my fish isn’t crazy!) and watch him swim around in his little glass home. I even bought him a fake plant, which he was afraid of for a few days before he began to like it. Just today I found him resting in the middle of the plant.
Whenever I clean his tank, I feel proud that I’m keeping his home clean just like I should
keep mine clean. His rainbow rocks have to be taken care of just like the carpet in my room. He has to be fed regularly just like I should eat regularly. He reminds me that self-care sometimes involves someone else.
Chester gives me the responsibility I need to keep myself going. When no one relies on me, I get in my head and harshly criticize myself, rather than feeling proud of taking care of something so wonderful as a living creature. Having another presence around keeps me rooted in the present moment, and his beauty gives me something to celebrate when I can’t find anything else beautiful in my life. Chester needs me, and, you know what? It feels good to be needed.
Soon, I want to undertake the task of training Chester to do a few tricks. Apparently, betta fish are very smart. I picked a fish that I can treat like a dog, and it wasn’t even on purpose! I think betta fish may now be my second favorite animal. Fish are definitely underrated pets.
So even though I’m a walking contradiction, I’m a walking contradiction that loves their fish pretty much the same amount that they love their dog. And I believe Chester loves me back unconditionally. Anyone who says that’s crazy is spewing a load of dookie (get it? Green Day reference number two?).
Update: Chester is staring at me as I upload this. Maybe I should let him read it first? 😉