• Ilan Cooley

a fish on the moon

Updated: Jul 28

"I recently had a lot of things change. It was so abrupt and relentless it pulled me off my axis. I drifted so far that I landed on the moon. I didn’t really know what to do, but after a while the answers filled my horizon like a galaxy of stars."


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I think we are all feeling a little more than a little out of sorts these days. It seems everyone I talk to has a story about how the pandemic has upended normalcy and even impacted their sense of security. In some cases, it has displaced their overall feeling of belonging in the world. Many of us are away from co-workers, friends, and family members, and are working in a strange new environment, or at least an altered one. Perhaps one of the hardest things to come to terms with is none of us can do anything to change it. It is simply out of our hands. I said to one friend, "I feel like I am a fish on the moon."

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, depending how it is looked at, I have often felt out of place, so I guess I am good at adapting. When I was a kid, I didn’t feel like I ever hit my stride at anything. I was too awkward to play sports, and not particularly good at academics. I was frequently teased and picked on. To say I was pretty weird is an understatement. I am still pretty weird, and at this point in life, I wouldn’t change it.

When I started my post-secondary education, for the first time ever, I felt a sense of belonging. On my first day of communications studies, I knew I had landed in the right place. My class was filled with artists and other writers. I thought maybe, like me, they had previously felt like they were from the land of misfit humans. I quickly found footing in academics and in student governance. I started to excel and flourish.

When I struck out in the working world I thought I had really made it. I had a real job in a large media organization and I immediately loved it. I also loved my co-workers. It was my first experience forming a family with non-familial people. Even so, I would not say I fit into that world completely. I remember my first boss giving her goodbye speech at my departure party saying I was like a wild horse that couldn't be tamed. Years later, I ran into a woman who had met me back then and she said even in my early 20’s she knew I had the makings of a successful entrepreneur. She said people who want to change the world and make things better are not comfortable in a structured work environment. She said she recognized my desire to build things, and to challenge, change, and innovate. That was not possible within a narrow job description.

When I finally struck out on my own in business, my own mum encouraged caution. She asked why I could couldn’t just enjoy job security and collect a decent paycheque. I know her words were offered out of concern and the fear of the unknown, but I could not have stopped the force that drove me if I tried. It was like my mind had a mind of its own. Of course, now my parents are my biggest supporters, and they tell me often how proud they are of my perseverance and determination.

I approached entrepreneurship with my own set of values and measures of success. I felt even failure by other people's standards would still be a success by my own. I wanted to embrace the journey, relying on my instincts, vision and values. I built my business on my unique professional strengths and my love of music and marketing. It was all working well until my industry was halted by the pandemic.


Right now my primary sense of belonging is inside myself. At times that is difficult and even scary. There is a fine line between tolerating your own company and straight up talking to yourself. I have had to find resourcefulness and self-preservation I could not have anticipated, or prepared for. Like many people, I was catapulted out of the water. I lost a lot of the people and things that contributed to my sense of belonging and comfort. Under the circumstances, I think it is good I am resilient and not used to fitting in. The world is so different, maybe none of us do at the moment.

If you are currently feeling out of sorts, or out of place, take the time to orient yourself with your new surroundings. At first you may feel like a fish in the water, and naturally, your vantage point is different. I think there is some good in having routines, normalcy and even your foundation shaken. Even though you have no choice in whatever strangeness has been forced upon you, there is a chance you may discover you’ve actually outgrown your current fishbowl, or were in there by happenstance, and it is time to relocate. If, like me, you find yourself on the moon, that is not such a bad place to be. There is a dramatic difference looking down upon the world, instead of spinning around on it.

I recently had a lot of things change. It was so abrupt and relentless it pulled me off my axis. I drifted so far that I landed on the moon. I didn’t really know what to do, but after a while the answers filled my horizon like a galaxy of stars.

A friend recently sent me a meme that made me feel seen and understood. It said “when you are born into a world you don’t fit in; it’s because you were born to create a new one.”

If you don’t feel like you fit into the world you’re in, I encourage you to enjoy your time on the moon and get ready for the new world you will build and embrace.





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