What brings food its flavor? What takes life from blah to bliss? Exactly what is it that puts the twinkle in the old mans eye?
Take 2 kids any age above 10. Hand one a 20-dollar bill, asking nothing of him. Hand the other a shovel and tell him if he digs a big hole they can have 20 bucks. Some kids will dig. Some wont. Let us assume this kid decides to dig for the money and finishes the hole in a couple hours…. When he is done, hand him a 20-dollar bill and congratulate him. Now take them both to the store and watch what happens…
The first kid will look for something to spend all the money on. He will probably approach you with a 25-dollar pile of toys and candy, and then ask to “borrow” 5 more bucks.
The second kid will pick up, ponder and put down several items before selecting how to spend some of his hard earned money. He will likely choose something refreshing and something that will last, or be reused. Like a Frisbee and a soft drink for instance. He will likely also have money in his pocket when he leaves the store.
That is just the beginning; the toys and candy will be squandered and left lying around or forgotten. The earned things will be treasured and placed in a special place. Enjoyed but cared for. To the second young person, it’s not a Frizz-bee. It is an experience. A memory that shaped him. A time of pride and reward.
To hand someone their hearts desire, without sacrifice or investment, is theft. Theft in the form of a gift is all too common. Theft of the satisfaction that comes from struggle.
Lets face it. This is true for us all. In fact we never quite grow out of this one. Easy Come Easy Go. But lets look at the flip side of that. I believe in being happy with less, but that is not my point here. My point is on the sweaty side of the journey.
Sailing has taken me so many beautiful places and I have barely scratched the globe with a fingernail. Time and time again I’ve had my mind fixed on a safe passage and delivery. Such a focus on a safe return or arrival, that this nagging and gnawing in my gut becomes palatable. Many people rely on a Captain, whether they know it or not, and so the focus is intensified to succeed.
Yet I replay the pictures in my head of these sailings and I realize, all to bluntly a fact inarguable. I scarcely recollect the moment I arrived at a dock, or made my ship fast at my destination. What I remember are handshakes and hugs all around from the crew. The congratulations to students. The recollections of events just minutes before. But not the arrival itself… Why? This was not the focus. Why is it the common denominator in my mind? These short stories… Burning matches. So brief… So bright….
What is seared in my memories? Moments that defy not only explanation, but understanding; Blood red sunsets in a ribbon of gold that command attention, to dissipate all senses but sight…. The magical stench of a whales spouting, so close it rains on you and you don’t know whether you need to puke or laugh. Maybe both. The sound of your own heartbeat, bursting in your chest as you cling to a bundle of headsail, waiting for the next plunge of ocean to fill your boots. Or the wide eyed mouth open expression of a students face when their light bulb turns on and the magic of sailing, takes root, within them. The humbling horror of realizing all eyes are on you, though you have no clue know the answer to a question. Or the terrifying but peaceful humility of finding an answer together or learning from a student. Then also the satisfaction of going about a complex task you have blundered a hundred times. Yet this time you float about with precision. Your hands move about, fluently tying, pulling and making fast, a mesmerizing assortment of lines cleats and winches, with the timing of a rapidly tuned metronome. Every prior failure dissolving into a “time well spent” satisfaction about yourself as your soul grins within you.
This is the crux of the chasing a dream. Keeping it real. Keeping it honest and most of all. Earning it.
Success accomplishment, satisfaction and happiness seem to be expressed not in titles and appearances or the ends of journeys But in the frequency of small accomplishments, little victories, gentle satisfactions and happy moments.
The more often you enjoy the work of your life, the more you will appreciate what it brings you. At some point along the way, I realized realize that the big payday is not when I hitch to the pier. Not when I cash a paycheck. The real payoff was the many small installments I received along the way.
As I sit and write this down I look around me. A rented apartment of 2nd hand furniture. Some borrowed. A mandolin I love to hack on but scarcely do for time sake. A pile of books I never thought I could read or understand. Now used as light reference… Filling the floor is another sailor’s mainsail, blown out from an ocean voyage. Next to it a sewing machine I never thought I could use with much skill. A welder on the porch I thought was beyond my level of understanding. Now tools of my trade. Not by choice but necessity, did I gain these skills as well as a hundred more. Fascinating gifts brought about by chasing a dream. I cannot afford to write a check for my needs and I am the better for it. I do what is required. Gleaning all the knowledge I can, from those around me, to cover the bills and needs of my life. As well as this grand journey.
This coming summer of 2013, I plan to sail the Northwest Passage from Alaska to Greenland. But though the trip will be splendid and challenging. It’s the work I put in now, that shall sweeten the voyage. It’s the clawing and scratching up the hill that makes planting a flag into a moment of glorious outcry.
I tell you this. I will make my run at the passage. And a thousand more adventures until all my moments are all spent. Until I’ve made my last tack. Howled at my last moon. I’m in this life to live and I pray these words are contagious.
If you feel slighted or shorted by life, God and or humans in general. If you feel you squander your days because life is a chore. Stop in your tracks. Look over the horizon and dare yourself to spend your next day, doing something that you believe you are incapable. Prove yourself wrong and unlock the gifts, in the efforts of chasing a dream..
Captain Jesse Osborn