Get a job, pay taxes, acquire stuff, and retire young… Wait, what? According to Ernie of Sesame Street, “one of these things is not like the others.” (Yep, I loved that quirky puppet show as much as you did!)
It’s been an interesting transition as I made my way from corporate to cockpit. During the process, I’ve experienced a lot of emotions and learned some good lessons that, frankly, I didn’t expect. So come aboard, grab some rum and settle in for my pirate story.
Many of you know that 8 years ago my husband and I decided to buy a boat, sell our stuff and go sailing around the world. We were both college educated with secure jobs at good companies. We had a nice home, went on vacation twice a year and were the proud parents of a basement full of stuff.
Why would we choose to leave all that you ask? Well, for us, there was just something missing. “There’s got to be more than this” was a common household phrase. We both yearned for a different life where we could explore distant shores, meet new people and make memories. So, we set a date, came up with a dollar figure we wanted to see in the bank account and went boat shopping.
Everyone says the two best days of a boat owners life is the day you buy your boat, and the day you sell it. I understand that sentiment exactly! Finding our first boat was a day of utter elation. Not just because we were purchasing the object that would jump-start our dream, but also because we were firmly moving in the direction of our dream. My head was filled with images of lazy days spent sailing on the Chesapeake Bay followed by sundowners on the dock with new friends. All of this, while wearing the cutest blue and white striped nautical clothing! Sounds amazing right? Hum….On this day I learned my first big lesson. Life gives you what you need, not what you want.
Many of you may have seen the 1986 Tom Hanks movie ‘The Money Pit’. Tom and his lovely bride, played by Shelly Long, buy the house of their dreams only to find that it’s held together by glue paste and lipstick. The home is a disaster and does its best to break both their relationship and their bank account. This was what we called our first boat. We couldn’t launch the boat for fear of it sinking. There was no sailing and my ‘nautical’ clothes consisted of grubby shorts and t-shirts covered in epoxy and teak dust. We slept in a tent every weekend while working on the boat in the parking lot. I didn’t go sailing, but I did learn to fix a boat which is an equally valuable skill if you’re going to live aboard one. 8 years later, as I write this story, the “pit” is in the water, but still, only 80% done. We’ve decided that we need to leave something for the next owner to do after he has his sundowner.
My next lesson came when I had to stop buying stuff. Remember that basement I told you about? There is something called the ‘Law of Stuff Dynamics’ that says that your stuff will expand to fill any space. I was very good at filling space! I had to get rid of 20 years of accumulated “treasures.” There’s no easy way to do it. You just have to take a shot of rum and break up with your stuff. I would pick up something and, if it didn’t bring me immediate joy, I would put it in one of the piles- Donate, Yard Sale, Trash. It was a long process that eventually became a game and then became fun. When I finally got rid of 90% of my “stuff” what I was left with was truly meaningful things that either fill me with wonderful memories every time I look at them or help make life a little easier.
You know what I learned from this? That you are not the net worth of your stuff. Society tries to define us by what we do or what we have. You can read my post about that here. That’s bullshit and frankly, it’s more fun to keep everyone else wondering.
The last ‘ah ha’ moment I’ll share today is that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. When we started this crazy adventure I didn’t know how to sail or fix a boat. I didn’t know how to run my own business, and I didn’t know who I could become when I wasn’t being self-defined by my corporate persona. Today, what I do know is that everything is ‘figureoutable’. So, bit by bit, with a dream in my heart, I keep moving forward.
Any new adventure is a constant stream of rediscovery. I challenge you to do something that’s way outside of your wheelhouse and see what happens. You’ll certainly have a good story and you may even discover a new you underneath all the layers. Me? Well, I’m enjoying not knowing what could happen next but being open to possibilities. Oh, and I spend every evening now toasting the end of another beautiful day on the dock of the bay with a sundowner!
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