As the ambitious perfectionist that I am, it is not easy to accept the constant fear of an uncertain future, which I attribute to my field of study. But, if you do not want to end up hating yourself for the decisions you made in the past, you have to work out a way to become content with yourself. My previous method was simple: be a workaholic. Working hard made me forget uneasy questions, gave me satisfaction and let me fall instantly asleep at the end of every day. But there always comes a moment when you are tired of running away and looking for distraction. For me it came last September.
Last September, in another run-away attempt, I packed my backpack, booked a one-way flight and took off to Norway.
I told myself, two weeks of sailing, far away from the shore, would be perfect in order to forget everything around me. Somehow I found my way to the harbor, hefting my things through the lonely town. The wind was cutting my face as I was walking along the pier. Passing grey tankers and smelly fishing boats I was looking for her. Narrowing my eyes to slits I looked into the distance and there she was. She was old but proud, covered in wood and robed with two masts. Her elegant silhouette contrasted with the heavy clouds above her. I approached and stared reverentially at the shining wheel made of precious oak tree. Although she looked as if life on her deck was anything but a comfortable fairytale, she was a beauty.
The moment I arrived after a long journey, I was about to begin the hardest voyage of my life. Me. The sea. And Bonaventura.
I am a strong person and I consider nothing beneath me. However, the time that was about to come upon me in September was harder than anything I have ever endured in my life. That voyage was not only a fight against nature, against its winds, waves and coldness; it was a fight against myself. Suddenly, I was exposed to my thoughts and fears, which forced me to confront them. Lying in my berth praying between watches I needed more than just a hug.
For the first time in my life I brutally experienced what weakness and despair feel like. For the first time in my life I felt the sweet temptation and desire to give up. I did not. But being at the very bottom made me realize how I was wasting the precious life that was given to me. Being caught up in a seasick body, working hard on watch during ice-cold nights, taming six heavy sails, and the loneliness on deck and on shoreless sea taught me humility. Finally, I was rudely awoken.
Everywhere around us we are confronted with struggle, with competition and choices. There are so many young people lost in the ocean of decisions and alternatives. Often, they end up regretting past decisions and losing the grip on life. And it is not at all easy to find a way out.
All I can say is: don’t be scared of falling. Sometimes, that is the moment where you realize the most.
Even then, the wooden prison canchange into a comfortable home, the endless water of isolation can turn into a horizon of freedom and the hopeless battle against hostile elements can transform into a respectful challenge.
That couple of weeks were an inspiration for my future life. Bonaventura made me realize: No matter what our past decisions look like, we have to focus on our future. We have to reconsider our life’s compass and chose a course that will bring us forward. We have to hoist the sails without reefing them out of fear. And although we know that we will sometimes deviate from our path, we have to understand that there is that beautiful oaken steering wheel we can use.
This is why I believe in the power of hardship.