Lessons from Salmon.

Welcome back! This blog post is a bit different, but bear with me. You may be puzzled as to what a medical student (Or any student, young person, old person) could learn from salmon, but stick with the post and see what you think. Let me know in the comments!


Once upon a time, you’re a small fish in a big pond. Let’s say a salmon. You’re surrounded by an ocean of other applicants, peers and friends each struggling for their graduation to the next stage. One by one, you split to enter different currents, redirected to Oxford or London or Nottingham or Durham.

So now you find you’re at the mouth of the river, about to change over from salty seas to the unsalinated waters of higher education. You may be frightened of the upcoming journey, but you plunge forwards into the estuary unable to counter the swells of peers behind you. There are many pitfalls on the path upstream. Who knows what fate lies ahead! Some fall in the first year at the hands of human hunters, speared and smoked on wooden racks for winter supplies.

As second year progresses, more challenges are faced. The water becomes shallower as the river ascends, watery ceilings above being smashed by clawed paws of bears, plucking friends into gaping maws.

But despite imminent threat, you rage blindly upstream. You work hard, fighting and jumping to overcome obstacles. At last you’ve made it to your final destination. Your once fresh faced, shining scales are now tattered with the battles of the journey. You met your purpose, you reproduce and collapse with exhaustion into death. However, you can be comforted that your body is used to feed the new litter of children, ‘contributing to the grand sum of human knowledge’. (Thanks Sam).

So quick, let’s save this before it gets too weird and too twisted. What went wrong? With the best of intentions a salmon enters the system, but before long the poor fish can’t remember where it started. It carries on anyway, blinded by its anadromic navigation system. It loses friends. In the end, a salmon kills itself to start another. It’s death is precipitated by a massive release of corticosteroids, known as ‘stress’ to you and me.

Salmon, from latin salmo, should be able to take a minute and pause, to leap from one fate to another. What if that fish was to swim backwards? What if it was to leap into it’s own environmental niche, get on with some speciation and rock the marine world? Who’d be the brave salmon to buck the trend?

That was fun but I gotta hurry back to studying, else end up as a certain fish flavoured dog food.


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