Most species of sharks must always be swimming forward to breathe. This is similar to, well, life itself. Despite how we yearn for do-overs, human existence only moves forward, inexorably forward. Lacking scientific genius, an ability to focus on tedious tasks, and general finesse—and thus the ability to construct a time machine—I have caved to this system, however un-ideal it may be.
But I have struggled on this trajectory. It has not been an easy road.
I fucked it up from the start. Bored of the womb, I sought entry into the world before it was my time. A premature infant, I paid for this earthbound eagerness with a jaundiced yellow hue, the mark of a human born a month earlier than is the natural order.
I’ve been screwing up ever since.
When I was two, battered by chicken pox and yet still endeavoring toward excellence—as if beckoned by Horatio Alger himself—I yearned to climb upstairs, seeking to ascend upward, ever upward. Yet my clumsiness caught up to me and I tumbled down a full flight of steps. My attempt to progress seamlessly forward landed me in the hospital for stitches on my lower lip.
I bear the mark of this attempted ascent in the form of a scar to this day. And this is only the beginning of my awkward transgressions.
When I was five, I attempted to lure an elusive cricket from behind the couch by placing my Mickey Mouse hat out in front of it. Despite Jiminy’s seeming closeness to Mickey—a friendship bond that I assumed would move the heart and soul of any insect—my plan failed. I could have asked a parent to move the couch. I could have then captured the cricket in a cup. But I chose to think outside the box, to attempt to coax the critter from the dark confines of his under-couch existence with a benign cap. I failed—and I’ve felt a fool about it since.
It’s like the time in middle school when I thought I would win over the masses in my student council bid with my killer "Vote for me, Kelley with an E" signs—despite being widely reviled for being perceived as "the smart girl" who thought she was better than everyone else (a false belief, but a pervasive one nonetheless). Like a cutesie rhyming sign and the interesting, more balanced spelling of my name could turn the tides of public opinion. Victory was not to be mine.
And then there was the ultimate flail. At 24, broken down, lost, confused, feeling desperate and disconnected from the rest of the world, I quit a “prestigious” job and fled the country. For nine months, I traversed the inner recesses of Asia. I rode elephants. I did yoga on mountaintops. I learned to scuba dive. But even 40 meters under the sea’s surface, eye-to-eye with a shark itself, I was unable to see it.
It wasn’t until yesterday, years later, that I finally had an understanding of the innermost workings of my soul: I am, through and through, a Left Shark.
I’ve been flopping my finlike appendages around, ungracefully out of sync with the rest of society since I was in utero (forsooth, I was, apparently, a very disruptive hiccuping fetus).
And yes, I didn’t even know this until yesterday. Of course I wouldn’t—I didn’t even watch the fucking Super Bowl, the most-viewed ‘Murican sporting event in the history of the universe. Why?
Because I’m a Left Shark.
Not watching the Super Bowl, failing to see my brethren in live action, was only one of countless examples of me operating thusly.
That time I walked into a closet—instead of suavely down the stairs as intended—in full view of a crush?
Arriving in Philadelphia to meet a friend’s friend for the first time, only to promptly smash into another car upon arrival?
Fumbling with change at an In N’ Out Burger for two minutes as I mumbled an “Uh, er, gosh, I’m sorry er, I’m from Vermont. Here you are,” like being a Vermonter explained anything about my incompetency handling standard American currency?
That lap dance I gave a coworker?
I drink too much sometimes. I dance on bar tops. I suck at sleeping. I text and gchat in all caps and keyboard mashes. I sass people in positions of authority. My politics veer wildly from those of the rest of my family.
You know what, though? I am no black sheep. I am no failure. I thought I had been living my life wrong, that I was inapt. And yes, compared to your fast-moving, perfectly timed Right Shark, it may appear that I have no goddamn clue what is going on.
But I have enough awareness to acknowledge the way the world has embraced the original Left Shark, to see how a bumbling man in a blue fish suit blowing his time to shine on a national stage has captured the hearts and minds of millions.
And if one awkwardly moving bro in a piscine costume can score bids for the presidency, fuck it, I’m happy to throw my lot in with him.
My name is Kelley and for the first time, I understand myself: I am a Left Shark. Watch me flail.