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The Captain

Updated: May 31, 2018

Some people talk about having a laminated list of celebrities their spouse would let them date, in the unlikely event that such an occurrence could exist. I just recently had such an opportunity and the ‘date’ took me all the way across the continent and lasted for eight days. Perhaps I should elaborate. 

This wasn’t like a Meghan Markle or an Oprah Winfrey encounter. In fact, it was with a man, someone none of you have ever heard of. He isn’t a famous celebrity in the pop-culture world we all live in, but nonetheless, he was someone who I was intrigued with despite never having met him.

As many of you know, I really enjoy sailing and have subscribed to a website that lists opportunities to crew for sailboat owners who are moving their boats from one place to another. It turns out that my pseudo-celebrity owns a forty-five-foot sailboat which was parked in the Bahamas and needed to go home to Halifax. As if owning his own sailboat wasn’t enough to garner my attention, this guy formerly sailed on tall ships and founded a sailing school for adolescents. This sounds like a page out of my ‘ideal life’ scenario, except it keeps getting better. He has written a book on management strategies and gives seminars and talks on the subject. If it weren’t for the fact that I am already sixty-five years old, this is who I am trying to be when I grow up. After flying across the continent to Boston and taking a 3-hour bus ride south to Newport, Rhode Island, I was about to encounter a representation of a future page of my almost-perfect life and I was a bit nervous.

All things considered, it was quite a first date. Within minutes of being greeted at the door of the bus, we walked a block to his dinghy (not a euphemism), and motored out to his boat which was moored in Newport Harbour. Within ten minutes of our first meeting, we were officially living together and making small talk. After enjoying some soup and conversation, we each headed to opposite ends of the boat for the night. Lying in my bunk, trying to drift off to sleep after a long travel day, I assured myself that my combined personality, attitude and sailing competency would cause the captain to be happy to have me aboard for the next week. 

The next day we provisioned the boat and enjoyed an evening with the Captain’s brother and his family. This provided me with further insights into the reality of the person I was looking to emulate. We were then joined by the third member of the crew who had sailed with the Captain before and as such was a known entity and a welcome addition. Soon we were clear of the mooring buoy and heading out into open waters. It seemed to me that a combination of sailing rust and uncertainty, brought on by my desire to present a clear picture of my competency, led to my inability to do even the simplest of tasks correctly. As a result, the Captain was compelled to repeatedly, yet patiently, correct my failures and question my knowledge. Likely, this was more my perception than his, but fortunately, as I relaxed and remembered, the situation improved.

The trip progressed and the three of us blended into a cohesive team while spending countless hours discussing numerous topics. As comfort levels increased, so too did the relevancy of the conversation, which is how I came to realize that the unrealistically plasticized image I initially had of the Captain required some modifications. On paper, he had truly done all of the things I mentioned earlier, and more, but there was far more to him than that. I came to realize that we often construct an image of someone based on our available information and then solidify our perceptions. Like with a statue or a photograph, our perceptions can lack the subtle nuances that define us all yet become locked in and are sometimes impossible to alter. My initial image of the Captain was that he was a successful end product. He had done everything I could have imagined and he could be freeze-framed for eternity as he sailed off into the sunset.

What I failed to remember is that success and happiness are by-products of the process of achieving, not of counting your trophies. What I learned through our discussions was that the Captain was between successes. His book and management strategy venture had not matched his expectations and his mind and motivations were being pushed around by the currents of society. He was unsure where he was and where he was heading. Throughout our lives, through necessity, we are driven to do many things required of us. As we age and our obligations diminish, the road ahead can become less obvious and defined. Navigating without a map can cause many of us to meander and move in circles. The Captain was looking to turn a corner without being sure of what he would find there. 

You may ask me if my altered vision of the Captain has caused me to be disappointed. My definitive answer is an absolute, NO. I began by viewing the man as a facsimile of unrealistic perfection and ended up viewing him as merely a person. A human being, who like all others has strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. A statue or a photograph cannot continue to grow as situations evolve but a living person can do many things to continually inspire themselves and others while enjoying their path forward. This is what drives my desire to take the wonderful life I already enjoy and continually attempt to improve on it.

I have no doubt that the Captain’s road ahead will be one of continued growth and positivity and that is exactly what I hope each of us would want to emulate.

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