Life Lessons from the Sea

In the song "Cross the line" by Superchick, there is a very good life lesson hidden in the lyrics: "Everybody dies but not everybody lives."

What she was trying to say is that going to work everyday to pay rent all the while waiting for the weekend to come so that you can relax and enjoy your life is not the way to live. If you have a dream, you shouldn't keep it as a dream. What you should do is make it your reality. 

I had a dream of sailing out into the ocean, and when I made that a reality, I quickly learned many things about myself and life that I may have wondered a lifetime without ever discovering. While we did encounter some dismal conditions on that ocean voyage, these thoughts actually came to me the moment we left the shore and entered the Atlantic Ocean. Our first three days of the passage were in calm weather with a gentle following sea on a pleasant broad reach. During this tranquility, away from civilization and any digital device that could cloud my mind, I began to realize something else. 

I feel that you can go an entire lifetime on land and never realize these simple truths because it has always been right in front of you and yet, no one seems to notice it! The moment you go out to sea, these seemingly mundane items transform into jewels of life and wisdom. If you don't have the opportunity to venture out on your own, I hope that this passage will be able to open your eyes to the world that is right in front of you. 

First: family is wonderful. They are people that you may or may not like, but you are related to them so something about you and them will be similar. If you like them, you could also consider them friends and cherish your time with them because as some point, time will separate you. This could be from death or from simply drifting apart, so you should cherish what you have while you have it. 

Second: simple things will make you happy. In our hyper consumerism society, we are constantly told that buying their product will make you happy. The companies are always trying to innovate new ways to make you buy their products so that they can make enough money to continue creating new things for you to buy. It is a vicious cycle where you end up throwing out their product when it doesn't make you happy and they throw out your money as they waste it on developing the new item you will buy. If you sit back and watch, you will disconnect from the world and just be happy! Happiness can not be bought, happiness comes from within and materialistic possessions that you buy to make yourself happy only clog your path to true happiness.  

Think about it, if your happiness comes from owning the newest product, then your happiness will depend on your wealth. If you are constantly spending your wealth on products, then you will run out. Now you need to go work for more wealth so you can spend it on more products. Soon enough, you are forced to work just so that you can have that new thing and as soon as you have it, it will become old and your joy will fade as the next item of your false happiness is presented to you.  

On the other hand, if your happiness comes from within, then you can simply sit there happily and not be caught up in this long and vicious cycle. 

Third: Time is a limited commodity. As you live, your time is ticking away. Each moment that passes is a moment that you will never get back, it is gone and that is how you spent it. Choose how you want to spend your time, and spend it wisely. The normal work week consists of working five days and enjoying two. This means that 71% of your week is spent doing work and only 29% of the week is spent doing what you want. This is your life, do you really want to give away 71% of it to your boss? If you are not happy at your job, then you will be spending 71% of your life doing something that does not make you happy! You should really think inside about what makes you happy and pursue something that will bring you joy.  

Along the lines of time being a limited commodity, any moment that you spend angry, sad, or displeased is a percentage of your life that will be occupied with an emotion other than joy and happiness. If you find yourself in a situation where you are not happy, you don't have to stay there! Leave and go do something that makes you happy! If you have freed yourself from material possessions, then you won't be tied to work because you don't need as much money to purchase "happiness items" and instead can be happy for free! This means that if you are working a job that you hate and your co-workers are mean and your boss is always yelling at you because they have personal that they are taking out by yelling at everyone in their presence, you can simply leave! You don't have to spend 71% of your life in a miserable situation. Instead you can simply leave and be happy! 

When you stop buying products, you will discover how truly innexpensive food is and if food is your only expense, you will be able to work any job that brings you joy and still be able to eat! 

Fourth: You only get one life, so you better live it! If you have a dream to go do something, be it travel or explore or invent, do it now! If you wait for the perfect time, you will end up waiting for death and yet never get to do what you wanted to do. In youth, we spend our days working at jobs to earn enough money to support our dreams when we are older. The problem is, when we finally are old enough to retire and do what we always wanted, we are too old and our bodies are no longer capable! We trade our health for money and then die with unrealized hopes and dreams. Worse yet are those who die unexpectedly at a young age! They never even had a chance. 

Living in a marina for several years, we encountered many tragic stories of people who wanted to go cruising. We have met a couple who wanted to go cruising and circumnavigate their whole life! When they were in their seventies, they were finally wealthy enough to purchase a brand new 50 foot catamaran that had all the creature comforts you could dream of and a few that you didn't even know existed! They moved aboard and quickly discovered that they were too frail to manage the boat. They lived aboard and would hire a captain to tre them around the harbor a few times a year. While they did get to take their boat out, they never traveled out of sight of the marina which is a far cry from world cruising. This went on for a few years and then they sold the boat and gave up on ever realizing their dream.

Another couple we met spent their whole life dreaming of cruising the Atlantic, and then when they were ready to cast off, were diagnosed with cancer. They had to delay their plans to receive treatment, and after the treatment was completed, were too weak to sail again. Years went by and they never were able to leave the slip. 

While traveling to Machu Picchu in Peru, we were sitting next to an elderly woman on the bus ride to the archeological site. She told us that she and her husband always wanted to see the Incan city on the top of the mountain. "When he died last month, I decided that I should go for the both of us." This was a heart warming story which then crushed all of our emotions when we arrived at the entrance.  

The entrance to Machu Picchu is not very dramatic. The bus drops you off in a parking lot and you will see some steps that lead up and over a small hill. Everything is covered with trees, and you can not see the ancient city from there. You will assume that the steps over the small hill must lead you to the city on the other side of the slope, but you would be sadly mistaken. The steps start off regular and small, but as you proceed, the steps become irregular and large. The old lady started going up the steps and after a few steps, she said "I'm going to take a short brake, you kids continue on and I'll catch up later." My sister and I continued up the steps and found that as you come over that small hill, you then go down the other side and then up a massive mountain! At the top of the mountain, you then see the city off in the distance; and you still have a long way to go to get to the city! We explored the city for several hours and decided to return to the town at the base of the mountain. On our way back, we encountered the old woman only a few steps higher on the first hill, taking a break because she was exhausted. It was sad because at the pace she was going, she would never make it to the top of the mountain to even get a glimpse of the city. They had waited their entire lives to come see this, he died and she was too old and frail to make it in the end. 

In the world of land lubbers, I knew a girl who was in her early twenties and got hit by a speeding car while crossing the street. The impact was so severe that she died before hitting the pavement. Maddie has also lost classmates and friends from cancer before they even turned 25. Since we live in Baltimore, MD, there is also acts of violence that you need to concern yourself with, as one of Maddie's friends was walking home from work and got shot in the head! All of these people had dreams that they were waiting to live out, but their lives ended suddenly.

The lesson is to live your dreams while you are young, healthy, and alive. If you wait, you might begin to loose these attributes which will make it difficult, if not impossible to carry out.  If there is something you want to do, set out and accomplish it now because the perfect time will never come.

Fifth: Comfort is nice. This doesn't mean that you need to buy the latest massage chair at the mall, but rather enjoy the things in life that are there to make life easier. The washing machine was invented to automate the process of washing clothes. It was then advertised as a way to free up several hours of your day so that you could then relax and enjoy yourself with the time that would have been spent washing clothes. The end result is that we found other tasks to do in that time that was originally spent washing clothes. Why not use the old wisdom that those ancient advertisers touted? When the washing machine is running, don't go do different work. Instead, why not sit back and relax in a comfy chair and watch the sun set or take a walk on a beach! Do something that is relaxing in that time instead of working yourself to death at another task. 

Sixth: Be happy. In the end, all you will have are memories and even these can fade with time. But along the way, you will touch other peoples lives and live on in their memories as well. Why not spend your life being happy and helping other people be happy as well? When you help people, you will help them be happier too and this trickle down effect will disseminate happiness all around.  

Seventh: Calm down. You might feel like you are in a rush to get everything done. The truth is, you made up these deadlines and schedules. If you need the laundry to be done by tonight, you made that deadline. If you run a little late, the clothes are not going to catch fire! Even if they did, then you wouldn't have laundry to do now would you? If someone else gives you a deadline, it might feel like it is out of your control and this deadline is immovable. Now you are stuck and have an actual deadline! Not really, everybody is a person and people are actual kind and reasonable persons. Simply explain to them that the task is not able to be completed by the set deadline and that the deadline needs to be moved. If they are unwilling to move the deadline and threaten to fire you, then you can either call their bluff and force their hand. If they fire you, then the task won't be completed by the time demanded, so they will probably yield. If they don't yield and fire you, now you don't have that deadline anymore!  

I am a dentist and work with people all the time when I am home. People are in a rush and a tizzy as they frantically freak out about insignificant problems that they grossly magnify and blow out of proportion. I could either get wrapped up in their frenzy and be stressed out, or not. Me getting stressed out won't make their tooth get fixed any faster, so there is no point in me going through that. Maybe, just maybe, my calmness will also calm them down so that we can all relax and take things one step at a time. 

Eighth: People are People. You might feel uncomfortable or unworthy to talk to other people. Maddie felt unsure about how to talk to the Coast Guard on the boats VHF radio. We hear them talking back and forth all the time as we monitor Ch16, but she had never actually spoken to them and she wasn't certain about the proper procedure or protocol. I told her that the voice over the radio is not a robot computer that only responds to the correct inputs, it's a person whose job is to sit at the radio and answer it. I told Maddie to simply talk to them like a person and ask for help along the way.

There are some basics that you can pick up just by listening to other conversations, such as stating who you are calling and who you are at the begging of a conversation to hail them on the radio. But from there, just talk like if you were speaking to them face to face; and don't hold the transmit button for too long because you can't hear while you are transmitting, so keep your sentences short.

Ninth: Sonder. People are all motivated and live their lives that are as complicated and intricate as your own. They might be that person standing next to you in the line at the grocery store or a fleeting face that passes you on the street, but they have an entire life that has led them to this very moment where they are right now! People, just like you, are all doing something and going somewhere. If you talk to them, you might find that you have many things in common and can become friends. They might be able to offer you insight into your life problems and you might them, but if you just ignore people and  categorize them as "extras on the stage of life" then you will be missing out on the wealth of experience that is around you all the time.

Tenth: Have fun. Life is short and your life may end at any moment, so life a life without regrets of things that you didn't do! Remember, in the eye of the universe, none of this matters! Our lives are carried out on this small orb that is hurling through space as it spirals around a burning ball of gas. It travels through the darkness of the universe with or without you. When you gaze upon the famous photograph "Earthrise" by William Anders in 1968, nothing that we have done shows up. Earth is merely a blue body in a dark field. Cities and people just don't show up! If you zoom out, you can see that your own problems disappear when you take a step back and asses the situation. Think about something that is causing you stress right now, you can probably name at least one thing quickly! Now, think about something that was causing you stress 25 years ago. Does that problem seem so paramount now? Time and space are one and the same, and 25 years into the future, a problem that seems titanic now will seem insignificant then. So don't let an insignificant problem ruin your life and rob you of the joy that you seek. Instead, sit back, analyze the situation, and see it for what it really is: an invisible speck that doesn't affect anything in the end!

While a lot of these thoughts will not mesh well with our current society, you must ask yourself if you want to be another sprocket on a cog that doesn't care about you, or if you want to be happy. Live your life how you want and enjoy each moment because you will never have it again!