I want to be a dolphin trainer

Over the years I’ve wanted to be many things: a showjumping champion, a dancer, an actor, a lawyer, a journalist, a food photographer, a dog breeder, a travel writer and tour operator. At one point I even wanted to just be a lady of luxury on a yacht. I’ve often found myself SO inspired by the place I find myself standing, or what I’ve just experienced, or who I’m with, that I seriously have considered big career-altering-life-changing shifts (CALC shifts).  I am able to perfectly envision myself doing that thing daily, and I’m filled with joy and excitement.

My recent trip to SeaWorld – unexpectedly – filled me with that same sense of opportunity and desire.

It’s not what I planned for on a family holiday which was about re-anchoring my life and connecting with my peeps.   I hadn’t had a CALC shift for a long time in fact.  The desire to do something else, to be someone else, hadn’t popped up for many years. Perhaps because I’ve been so happy doing what I’m doing, and busy getting on with things.  But there it was, poolside, that familiar tugging of the heartstrings and niggling of the mind..the ‘what it’ emotion rising in my chest, the sense that there could really be another way to live.

It happened when I was watching the dolphin show. Observing the incredible feats of the gentle but powerful animals, the smiley intelligence, the strength of bond between trainer and animal.  Tears actually welled in my eyes as I clapped enthusiastically, fervently, childishly, after each and every manoeuvre.  I marvelled at the sheer joy on the faces of the trainers, I observed their hand movements and the reactions they caused. I saw them squeeze their eyes shut when they wrapped their arms round the sleek leathery bodies of their, basking in the beauty and comfort of their strong, loyal charges. And I yearned for the same. I wanted an animal that big to trust me, to want to please me, to adore, to trust in return. I wanted to care for and work with a life form that needed me as much as I needed it. I wanted, in that moment, to be a dolphin trainer.

You can stop snickering now.

You might think, ‘we’ve all wanted to run away to the circus before Jo, but it’s not a real thought.’

But this was. Is.

I know it might sound absurd. I know it sounds like the flight of fancy of a holiday maker who got carried away with a great experience. I know it sounds positively ridiculous. But it’s true.  And to be honest, not as weird and off-centre as it may sound. I have always had an affinity with animals, in particular a special interest in rescue animals.  I have volunteered for organisations who support animals and place most of my donations there. I am a water baby and love the ocean, so a dolphin trainer is not that big a stretch to my mind. I sought out one of the trainers after a close-up encounter with a dolphin for our kids, to find out how to become one – what was the best pathway in, where was the best place to get qualified, what kind of experience did you need. My daughter also expressed interest in the idea, so interestingly, I found myself framing the conversation under the guise of finding out for her.

But why?

It was me who was TRULY interested. Why should I hide that fact? Did it sound like an impossible dream? Was it too far-fetched for a 45 year old? Was I embarrassed to seek advice about a career change at my stage of life?

Did it mean I had failed in business?

Aha. The big one. Failure.

Did a desire to change from the existing mean I had failed? Why was I so scared to even let my brain go near thinking about this? Was I being ridiculous even suggesting that a change meant failure? Hell, I am allowed to make a change without having to admit defeat. I am fully entitled to do whatever I like without it being as a result of failure. Right?

I tossed the conversation around in my head for days. I discussed it in detail with my husband on the balcony while the children slept. I looked to the night sky for answers. I raised it again poolside whilst the kids swam. Could we make it work if I really did pursue this? How would I reconcile the last 7 years of running work in my mind….what did it mean for my business….what did it mean for my clients….what would the world think? Would my husband be able to get a transfer? Did he even want to? Dolphin training opportunities are not exactly abundant in Melbourne, so it would definitely require a move north or west.  Was this just a pipe dream? And so what if it was…can’t dreams sometimes come true, if you wish hard enough? Isn’t that what Jiminy Cricket said??

Why couldn’t I become a dolphin trainer, became the big question….

A return visit to the dolphins a few days later reaffirmed my desire. This was real. And possibly a little more realistic than my ambition to become a sex goddess on a yacht on the Mediterranean…

And then we left.

We left the warmth and sunshine and dolphins of the Gold Coast. And the hopes and possibilities seem to have faded along with the suntan…

Why? Why should this whim, this fancy, fade? Why should it go the way of the others? I had actually put fair effort into making some of those a reality – freelancing for a travel mag, doing a specialist food photography course, finding work experience with a lawyer, and 20 years dance training (don’t ask what research and prep was put into the sex goddess dream!). And whilst some of them worked for a while, they didn’t last, for one reason or another. The ideas dwindled with the enthusiasm and/or rejection, and made way for new ones to form.

So, maybe this dream hasn’t actually disappeared, but rather is just being housed in a trinket box to be retrieved at a later stage. Maybe there is still hope that I will fulfil this fancy.  Or maybe I’m hoping someone else will make the decision for me. Or perhaps I’m actually in a place that is comfortable and stable and joyous and I should just acknowledge that.

And that’s fine too. In fact it’s better than fine. I think.

But maybe, just maybe, I’ll be the oldest, most devoted dolphin trainer SeaWorld has ever seen…

2 Comments I want to be a dolphin trainer

  1. Pauline Visser

    Maybe your clients look at you in the same way that dolphins that you train would, but you haven’t noticed!
    In some ways I feel a bit like a dolphin splashing around in a pool of words that you have wrangled for me.
    Just a thought!!

    1. Jo

      I never thought of you – or any other client – in that way Pauline! But thank you. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m doing just what I should be. X


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