Another New Year’s Eve approaches. Another, likely futile, attempt on my part to stay up until midnight. This year Prez and I are in the same place, with the same people, as the year before. Nothing has changed and everything has changed.
I’ve been contemplating the year ahead, an exercise that reminds me of driving our boat out of Ucluelet harbour in the middle of August, blinded by fog, rocks on all sides, hoping our GPS is accurate, wondering what the seas will be like once we navigate into open water. Optimism tempered by experience.
Goals and plans are my GPS. Though I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions (with the exception of my annual vow to floss more often), I usually have a surplus of goals that wake me up every morning and drive me onward. The end of the year is stock taking time for me. How much have I accomplished? What remains undone and why?
This is a different year.
All I can say about 2015 is “I survived”. Every plan and goal I had going into this year, I tossed overboard to keep the boat from sinking.
In fact, as I type this, all my years on the water are coming back to me in sharp focus. No coincidence. Life on the ocean, with its long stretches of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme euphoria and moments of sheer terror, is the perfect mirror of our larger life.
If that’s so, then 2015 was the two days Prez and I left our little cay in the Bahamas and journeyed to Key Largo, Florida in our little fishing boat. We set out in calm water, under clear skies, only to have a white squall drop on our heads. In the Grand Bahama marina, we cleaned up and dried off, me still in shock. From there, our uneventful crossing of the open Atlantic and the notoriously treacherous Gulf Stream had us grinning again, even if we inadvertently chose one of the most difficult cuts to make our entrance to the shelter of the intercoastal waterway and were swamped by a standing wave. But our hubris was quickly punished by one of Florida’s tropical thunderstorms that soaked us as we slept and sent my poor cat Emily dashing across the marina in a feline panic. More triumphs and mishaps followed until we arrived at our destination, soggy and exhausted, only to find that every piece of electrical equipment we owned, no matter how meticulously stored, had been destroyed by salt water.
More than twelve years later, every high and low of those two days remain etched in my cranium. I suspect 2015 will have the same effect. I may not remember every day and every moment but this will be the year that fixes itself in my memory—all the good, all the bad.
That day we arrived in Key Largo, our future had never been more uncertain. In a way, that day would set the tone for all the years to follow. Uncertainty became our guiding star, as odd as that may sound. We feared it, pushed against it, and then slowly, somehow, embraced it.
Many times the ocean has humbled me, reminded me of what a small and insignificant creature I really am. But the ocean has also taught me that storms can be weathered and there are often no two words more important and meaningful than, “I survived”.
The house Prez and I rented in Key Largo came with a lovely outdoor tiki bar, complete with a palm thatch sun shade. When we inspected the bar, we noticed several old cell phones had been nailed to the palm trunk—a perfect summation of the laid-back attitude of the Florida Keys. Seized by the inspiration, Prez hurried to dig our now-dead phones out of the pile of electronic corpses that had once been our links to civilization. Losing our cameras, our laptop, our phones, all our photos and every address and phone number ( both old and new), had devastated us—the final insult to end a failed experiment. Solemnly, Prez nailed our dead phones to that palm trunk. We laughed, we unpacked, we dried out our belongings, and then we carried on.
We had no idea where we were going or what we would do next but we had survived and a world of possibilities awaited us.
I have no idea where I’m going in 2016. Thanks to 2015, I do know that whatever I do I will have the love and support of my friends and family, and even kind strangers.
So here I am at the turn of the tide, nailing my metaphorical cell phone to the palm tree. I survived.
Here’s to the year ahead and the great big ocean of life.