Thursday mid afternoon and the sun was hot, a crispness to the breath that one only finds in the spring time of the Pacific Northwest. As I walked through the yard, dry grass scratching at my feet, aimlessly trying to piece my life back together, it dawned on me that I had been awake for hours, and still with nothing accomplished. I was battling an apparently never ending hangover, and freshly twenty one years of age, this was not an uncommon occurrence. A buddy of mine then invited me for a late lunch and a beer, as I fully embraced the now having something to do. A giant burrito and a margarita would surely fix everything. We had just sat down and begun discussing the finer intricacies of all the beautiful women and jager-bombs from the night prior, when my phone rang. After a quick exchange of hellos, I was caught a bit off guard when the voice on the other end asked, “Do you want to come to Alaska, and chef with me on this yacht for the summer?”
This was a big question, that could really only be answered after addressing some of life’s more ‘important’ circumstances. I was in school, and in the middle of a lease, there was still snow at the pass, and what about all my friends and all the parties I would miss? However, I also had a rather long list of significant reasons to run away from my current life situation. I hated my job, school was obviously not my cup of tea, and the rest of life’s drama was something I currently just did not want to deal with. It took me all of two seconds to respond, “What! Ya of course, when do I start?!”
That first summer, in 2012, was something else. I was so young, and so inexperienced, suddenly fully submerged into a very real and very ‘adult’ reality. I made it through that summer and returned in 2014 but honestly just kind of bounced around for the next couple of years. Giving college another (and final) shot, traveling outside the US for my first time, and then thoroughly attempting the 9-5 city life. All the while just trying to figure out where I fit in this world… who was I to become, how would I identify? Nothing I was doing seemed right, so when I was asked to return in the summer of 2016 I jumped at the opportunity. It was here, in May/June of 2016, that my life, unbeknownst to myself at the time, would begin to very seriously redirect itself.
You see, we are all running away from, or towards, something. For me, this was the first time in my life that I had finally shifted into a mindset of running towards something, instead of away from everything. It’s hard to explain, but I had finally realized that ‘society’ and me were just never going to get along very well. I loathed the education system, despised working and living a classic 9-5 lifestyle, and just simply could not tolerate the general populace whining and complaining about literally everything! I saw working on boats as a way out of all this. So I ran, yes away from society, but for the first time towards something bigger, a goal, a lifestyle. Certainly a step in the right direction, but boy did I still have a lot to learn.
Surprisingly, my time for learning was coming up sooner then I could have ever possibly imagined. I now had direction, which gave me a sense of purpose, and something to strive for. But I had certainly still left behind a large amount of unaddressed emotional discomfort. Caught in this awkward limbo where I was now both running towards something and simultaneously running away from some things.
At the core of all this was a rather large problem. What I was running towards was this identity, this accomplishment (or series there of), that would distinguish and ultimately define me, and what I was running away from, was everything that didn’t ‘agree’ with my self proclaimed identity. As this year of 2016 unfolded I ultimately found myself diving head first into this dream identity, devoutly set on becoming everything I had built it up to be. By early December of that year, well, I had accomplished this task. Then, very suddenly, the strangest and most peculiar thing happened to me. Realizing I had finally become this thing I always wanted to be, I simultaneously found myself forced to ask, “okay… now what?” I then realized how completely idiotic my chosen identity was, how any identity was, and that it was in fact more then likely going to kill me, that it was killing me.
I regularly speak in many different directions of a moment on December 15 of 2016, that forever changed the entirety of my existence. Although that moment itself is of a rather complex essence, may we all come to understand, that any and all aforementioned directions inevitably coagulate into one ultimate happenstance. In this moment, I chose to let go of my identity.
Without it, I felt as though I was again 5 years old. Quite lost and confused, but oh so curious! I had no idea what lie ahead, how I might get there, wherever ‘there’ was, or even what my intentions were, with life or with anything there under. What I did know, was that The Boat Company had asked me to return to work for the summer of 2017, and that if I chose to do this I would find myself both in a situation of financial comfort, and in a place that would provide me some rather serious time for self reflection. Exactly what I needed, to dive deep within, and pursue a place of internal zen.
I found myself a bit distracted that summer, as I encountered my first real experience with a romantic love that was mutually acknowledged. Through this process I did indeed procure a significant amount of self understanding, but honestly, it was losing this love that taught me life’s greatest lesson. I learned that no matter the pain that was to come, it would always be worth it to fully open up my heart, without hesitation or reserve. I chose to remain in this state of openness and as a result learned how to find a complete comfort in being alone. That winter, as 2017 became 2018, I faced a lifetime of internal pain, and through the fog, I found my zen.
Around this same time it became clear that I would return to Alaska for one more summer, this most recent contract. Where with any spare fraction of a cognitive moment, I’ve contemplated the deeper essence of this zen. As a result, in these past five months, I’ve had some of the most profound realizations and spiritual epiphanies of my life to date. It is here that I have encountered, what is perhaps to become, my life’s mission.
What exactly is it that I speak to here?
Well, I would encourage you to stay tuned and find out!