“You’re so brave,” she said. “To stay on the boat by yourself and handle all that alone.”
This was an old friend of mine, Bridgett, I was talking to recently during one of my extended solo stays on UbiQ. To make full-time cruising and working aboard work for Phillip and me this past year we’ve had to be flexible and agree to some very different living arrangements at times, one of which has required me to stay aboard alone and manage the boat (sometimes at a marina, but other times on the hook or a mooring ball) while Phillip flies home to handle in-person work obligations. Is this ideal? No. But the thought of Bridgett calling me brave for it struck me. I felt there was some response inside of me to correct her, or clarify, but I couldn’t find it at the time. Well, it finally came to me, and I thought it would make a good contribution to HaveWind and our attempt, here, to share the realities (not the romance) of cruising. So, without further adieu, I give you Annie …
The older I get (I did turn 40 this year, you have to be a little brave to do that), I don’t see the things Phillip and I do—the ways in which our lives differ from traditional land-based lives—as bravery. Do our choices sometimes put us in situations that are frightening or worrisome? Absolutely. How does that saying about cruising go again: Days of paradise punctuated by moments of sheer terror? Something to that effect. We’ve definitely had our share of panic-ridden moments.
But they were all self-induced. We chose to put ourselves in those situations. We weighed the possible risk against the likely outcome and made a decision. I think that’s what struck me about Bridgett’s comment and what I’ve come to discover about myself, my life and decisions, and what I would consider true bravery. Here’s the thing I could not formulate at the time. It’s like that perfect comeback that you couldn’t come up with in the moment it would have been perfect to say, but it strikes you like a bolt of lightning in the middle of the night as you’re replaying the whole affair. What I realized is, in my opinion:
IT’S NOT BRAVERY; IT’S JUST A MISSION STATEMENT
What is a mission statement? Feel free to try to answer that for yourself before reading on. Both defining it and coming up with one for yourself (or your team, or company, or whatever you choose) are fantastic goal-driving exercises. Webster defines it as a “concise statement of your purpose.” Don’t let the seeming simplicity of that deceive you. Coming up with your own mission statement is extremely difficult because it has to be short, simple, with all of the fluff and fat boiled out—much like good writing, which is why I love that challenge as well. For Phillip and I and UbiQ (because I see us as a team and this blog is meant to address our lifestyle and choices) this is what I believe to be our mission statement:
TO EXPERIENCE THE WORLD TOGETHER
What does a mission statement have to do with bravery? Cultivating your true mission statement and approaching each decision you make by selecting the choice that best fulfills your mission statement can—I have discovered—make you do things other people may see as brave. But you will just see it as a step toward fulfilling your mission statement. Example: A baker who wants to exchange cupcakes for smiles takes out a loan and buys a dicey property for his bakery in the city. Is he brave or just driven? A woman who wants a large family decides to proceed with a risky pregnancy. Brave or just dedicated? A sailor wants to teach and raise his kids while cruising around the world takes them out of school and moves aboard. Brave or just determined? I believe one of the most challenging things in this life is finding what makes you happy, what you truly want. However, if you do find it—which I’m incredibly grateful to feel that I have found what I want, both in Phillip and in cruising (and in writing)—you won’t have to feel like you’re summoning courage to take the steps that bring you closer to fulfilling that purpose. You’ll simply be confident in the direction your perhaps-brave-looking steps are taking you—because they are toward your ultimate goal, whatever that may be for you.
For me, Phillip, and our amazing boat, Ubiquitous, who carries us to each new shore, any choice that keeps us and the boat safe and healthy and is geared toward giving us more time, in the end, to sail around and “experience the world together” is the right decision for us. Even if that means I have to stay aboard by myself at times because we cannot find a marina or safe place to leave the boat alone for a bit. Even if that means Phillip has to walk some seedy streets at night to get on planes and fly back and forth (even on 9/11 – that one freaked me out a bit). Or one of us has to climb our mast to make a necessary repair.
It especially means if we have to buck up and make an offshore passage when conditions are not ideal but it’s required to move the boat to safety, that’s just what we have to do.
These are not acts of bravery in my opinion, they are simply risks assumed and accepted as necessary for the greater cause, the mission statement.
The more I thought about Bridgett’s comment, the more I felt true bravery comes from an act of courage in a situation not of your own making and not for your own benefit. Example: A passerby steps in to protect a woman from her violent spouse even though it may cause him harm. A welder decides to back a fellow employee who claims she was sexually assaulted even though it might cost him his job. A reverend leads a mass of nonviolent demonstrators toward a blockade of state troopers and attack dogs in the name of justice. These are acts of bravery. But, then again, perhaps people like this simply have a more deeply rooted, selfless mission statement: EMBODY JUSTICE.
But, what do I know? Only that I keep uncovering more answers for myself with each passing year. There is no greater teacher than time. And the constant passing of it means no greater reason to create and accomplish goals. Which makes me want to ask each of you: What is your mission statement?
Many thanks to my wonderful friend Bridgett for inspiring this piece. Love you my friend!