Once a Groundhog, Now a Killer Whale

Let me explain.

Today, I attended a staff meeting for work and we began it with this icebreaker: if you had a spirit animal, what animal would be yours and why?

I love this icebreaker not only for its self-reflective nature (I am, after all, writing this blog about life journeys…), but also that it features an animal — and as anyone knows who knows me, I have a deep, profound love for all animals — they make my heart melt with ooey, gooey goodness!

But what I love even more than the icebreaker question itself is the way folks respond to it.

Answering it myself today, I realized something important: my spirit animal had changed.

Leaving the Old, Welcoming the New

I no longer consider my spirit animal the groundhog (more on this in a moment). I now consider the killer whale my spirit animal, amazing myself that I even voiced it out loud today as it served as a public acknowledgment of how much I have grown, and who I have become (even if my colleagues didn’t realize this — I surely did).

For a long while, I was more of a groundhog — adorable (yes, always adorable), silly, people-shy, grass muncher (vegetarian here), boundary-setter, treasurer of down time, fairly laid back, and rather connected to family and community.

While I still house many groundhog characteristics to this day (and likely forever — I mean, who wouldn’t want a groundhog around them in spirit — such adorable fat, furry beings? *squeel*), I have outgrown other groundhog characteristics.

With the journeys I have chosen to undertake throughout my life, I have been bruised, shaped and chiseled with experience. I now find myself looking in the mirror at a very familiar friend rather than someone to poke holes in and hang out to dry on a flimsy clothesline.

Given this, I can now finally see myself as a more powerful and evolved manifestation of the groundhog spirit — a killer whale (natural transition, eh?).  

Rennett Stowe_Flickr
“Killer Whales and a Glacier” by Rennett Stowe is licensed under CC by 4.0

I feel honored — having this big, beautiful, respected and powerful member of the dolphin family as my spirit animal — honored that it has come to me after all I’ve pushed myself to become and all I am still looking forward to becoming.

The killer whale in me has arrived just in time as I embark on this new blog journey and await many others ahead. I send my thanks out into the universe for having it join me.

Amazing Killer Whales

Killer whales are truly stunning feats of nature.

As one of the most widely distributed mammals in the world after humans, they are the fiercest fighters in the ocean.

They also, so very interestingly, have a “complex form of communication with different dialects . . . from one pod to another,” according to Defenders of Wildlife.

Photo credit: NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center

What’s more, some killer whale groups have even been known to be extra silly:

“They wag their tails, slap their pectoral fins and ‘spyhop’—bob into the air to get a better look at the above-water world. They also engage in ‘greeting ceremonies’ in which whales line up in two opposing rows before tumbling together into a jostling killer whale mosh pit. ‘It looks like they’re really having a great time,’ says Ken Balcomb, a biologist with Washington’s Center for Whale Research.”

On a more spiritual level, killer whales are said to protect those who leave home and “lead them back when the time comes.”

Me and Killer Whales

As many may know, killer whales are, by nature, matriarchal. I feel that by my own very nature, I am aiming to be a sort of matriarch — a strong, successful woman leading the way to making the world better around her.

Killer whales are also very relationship-oriented, staying tight with their pods throughout their lives as they grow and change themselves.

In a similar fashion, I have always kept my dear friends and family close throughout the years as I have grown from a preschooler once upon a time ago all the way to the professional adult I am today. I still have a dear girlfriend from preschool and still keep many friend groups from each part of my life. This makes my heart swim with joy!

Moreover, as highly intelligent and creative beings, killer whales are amazingly self-aware and attuned to their surrounding environment.

Thomas Quine_Flickr
“Killer whale carving” by Thomas Quine is licensed under CC BY 4.0

I fancy myself as someone who is like this too — aware and responsible for myself at all times while also easily sensing shifts in mood of those around me. I like to think of this as my sense of compassion, and my ability to feel empathy. I hope my spirit animal would agree.

Killer whale culture is also very much focused on food in addition to family and play. Many killer whales travel long distances to hunt together.

As Eva Saulitis stated in Into Great Silence, “Food is place; food is culture. For us, for whales. The way an animal hunts, the way a human hunts, is culture.”

This resonates greatly with me as I am all about the food. I have grown up surrounded by a culture of food — good, old country Croatian cooking from my grandma and relatives and mother, dishes made of simple yet delectable ingredients that you savor like the taste of butter long after every last bit is spooned up — yum!

The one aspect of killer whales that resonates with me most, however, is this — that a number of killer whale populations are now endangered and facing extinction. Yet — despite the threats they face, they continue to swim on, feed on, play on, and ultimately fight on.

I have always considered myself a fighter. I have always fought against unfairness, inequality and for the protection of our rain forests, environment and the other animals we share this world with in addition to human rights.

I am a fighter to the core — and sometimes I think I was born fighting, fighting against social norms that too often chain us to certain socially and culturally-constructed identities that suck the diversity out of us and repress our individuality.

What’s more, even when I’ve thought I would give up during some of my most tiring times — I didn’t, and I still don’t.

Even after the very worst day, I will get up and face the new day called tomorrow in the eye and quietly sing it awake in my bones, taking one stroke then another until I swim back into the world to fight on. Because I believe, above all else, that there is still more to do — still more to see, more to explore, more to experience, and more to love.

As David Grimes said (as quoted in Into Great Silence), “In the end, we all just want to repay with our lives some measure of the love we feel. Don’t you think?”



P.S. I want to hear from YOU, dear reader! What is your spirit animal? Or, what spirit animal do you aspire to have? Please feel free to leave a comment below or shoot me an email! (And I’d love to hear your personal story if your spirit animal has changed over time as mine has.)

P.P.S. Thinking of getting this type of killer whale design as a tattoo one day — good fit, eh?

P.P.P.S. Sign up for monthly InspirationInspiration for Good‘s newsletter! Inspiration smack dab right in your inbox every month!

Featured image photo credit: Pod of Killer Whales” by Rennett Stowe is licensed under CC by 4.0

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A writer, observer and explorer at heart. Author of the lifestyle blog, Inspiration for Good, and the travel blog, The Croatia Chronicles.

2 thoughts on “Once a Groundhog, Now a Killer Whale”

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