‘My Octopus Teacher’ taught me so much

‘My Octopus Teacher’ taught me so much

There were so many touching moments in the award-winning documentary ‘My Octopus Teacher’ which tells the story of Craig Foster and his relationship with an octopus in a South African Kelp forest.

I highly recommend that you watch it first then read this post after if you’re worried about some spoilers, but I will try my best not to spoil it for you all. What I’m here to write about are the feelings I felt and the things I could relate to when I watched it.

I’ve always known that Octopuses or Octopi or Octopodes (They’re creatures so great that they deserve 3 plural forms) have evolved in the most magnificent way. I’ve always been fascinated with them. They can change colours and shape to camouflage and hide away from their prey. They’re loners, nocturnal, agile and most of all, highly intelligent. They have so many tentacles which, if mutilated, can grow back. Despite all these amazing things, sadly, they have a short life span. After mating and giving everything they have to make sure their eggs hatch, they soon die.

I’m sure that there are many other amazing things about these creatures that I don’t know about. While I was watching the documentary, it was mentioned that, they had to adapt to survive because essentially, they’re like snails without a shell. They’re vulnerable and often alone in their dens, always running away from predators out to get them. Simon said, ‘The constant fear of danger and the will to survive forces any living being to evolve.’

I couldn’t help but tear up because that’s when it hit me… The laws of the universe really do apply to all living things. This is why I’m drawn to and love Buddhism, Shinto and Taoism. From the wind, water, rock and fire- everything is connected… each and every living or non living thing, all of us share something.

They mention that in the short life span of an octopus, they only have such a limited time to learn the ropes on how to survive so really, they must learn early and fast. They don’t really have a parent to show them how to live. Somehow, it’s ingrained within them to instinctively know how to use the skills they have to live. I felt like, I could relate to an octopus because, well, I had to learn a lot on my own too. I had to figure things out on my own from such a young age, instinctively trying my best. I was a working student and working in retail stores enabled me to learn valuable sales, marketing and life skills. I learned not to rely on others and if I ever need anything, I go out and get it. I couldn’t ask a parent for anything because I’m either told, ‘You can figure the answer to that yourself.’, ‘Do what you think is best.’ (as if a young person has all the life experiences to know what is best) or they make you feel like some kind of burden so you learn how to fend for yourself instead. I couldn’t stay idle or sit around waiting for a handout because, I knew, I wouldn’t survive. I didn’t have a clue about how life really worked and looking back now I think, it’s some kind of miracle that I even managed to achieve the things I have. Simon and I even say, ‘If only we knew how this worked, then we would have avoided x,y,z.’ I’m grateful though… I learned to be self sufficient. In fact, I’m so independent that others learned to depend on me too much (We’ll save that for another story time).

I remember being a 16 year old, sitting in my room thinking, ‘How do I set up my tax payments and wages?’ Thank goodness for the UK’s PAYE system, I didn’t have to worry about that so much. I had to figure out how to set up the MOT and Tax for my car on my own though and all the other things that come with running a car. I had no time to play or enjoy the things that come with youth because, I had to be an adult too soon. I had no one to turn to and I had to figure out all the other things that, usually, you can run to your parents to for help and advice. I also thought about life and wished to know how to live it fully, with hardly any mistakes if possible. Again, thank goodness for Google and other search engines, I was able to ask questions like, ‘How do I deal with the loss of a pet?’, ‘How to sign up for utility bills?’ ‘What is the best way to budget my money?’ ‘How do bank cards work?’ ‘How not to mess up in life?’

So, just like an octopus and many of you who have survived so much (you know what I mean), we’ve had to learn how to grab shells to shield our vulnerable selves from life’s stormy days and nights. Sometimes, the shields don’t always work, predators take a bite (or more than a bite) off of us but these moments are what make us grow. In the near death experiences we face, and by that I don’t mean literal death, just those moments when you start thinking, ‘I’m done.’, I’ve learned to continually remind myself, the words of Kanye West, ‘That don’t kill me, can only make me stronger.’, and just like the octopus which can grow another tentacle, you can always grow in so many ways and start again.

Just like an octopus, I guarded my mind, heart and soul. I learned not to trust so easily and to always keep my wits about me because back in the days when I didn’t know much and I was too trusting, I lost a lot of tentacles. I’m blessed to have not lost myself in the process. I lost a lot of time and money from people who openly took advantage of my generosity and kindness. It took a lot for me not to have a cold heart and most of all, to trust myself again after being duped over and over again. There are so many predators out there in the world, masking themselves initially with good wishes for you and pure intentions but deep within have a desire to devour you. It’s a sad fact of life but as I’ve always said, life is nothing but a drama, like a movie or a play. To make life more exciting and to make us all grow and evolve, for us to know good, we have to know bad… and so, I guess, we have to have villains and predators in the play.

Life isn’t always about doom and gloom. Stay guarded, just like the octopus teacher but be open to trusting too, there are people out there just like Craig Foster, who who still have pure, genuine intentions and a strong desire to do good and to learn. If we don’t open our hearts to some people, we would miss out on great relationships. I’ve learned to ride the waves and outsmart a predator to escape from it’s grasps. I’ve learned not to fight with the current and to go with the flow because I thought, ‘You never know what’s around the corner, so what’s the point in worrying so much?’. I’ve also learned to ride the waves of life to also have fun and to enjoy it. We have to evolve to survive. We need to face hard times in order to grow because I know that, my life, your life, which really, is, like an octopus’ life is short, we need to live it in the best way we can.


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