Ahoy! As anyone who is my Facebook friend, or who I’ve seen recently, knows, I have been taking sailing lessons.
This week-long class, which I would normally consider completely frivolous (and still sorta do) took place at the Chautauqua Institution, where Michael works for the opera, and where I would be
an unemployed bum on vacation.
I took sailing for several reasons:
1) I’d never done it before, and I thought it would make me sound cool. Not like Bob Wileyin What about Bob?—I’d actually be a sailor. And talk about things like wind speed and gybing and hiking out.
2) I’d finished a gig in the middle of June, and had nothing scheduled for the rest of the summer. Or the rest of the year for that matter.
The week I started sailing, I felt like I had nothing to look forward to in my career. A year prior to that, I’d been booked a year in advance. And here I was, spending the second half of the summer around other singers with upcoming engagements, including the one they were doing right then, and I had…well…I’M LEARNING TO SAIL!
See how it makes me sound less like a complete failure?
And that may be the biggest thing I learned from sailing.
A metaphor for life in general.
Cheesy, I know.
Here’s the metaphor:
Life is much like sailing. You can sit on the dock, safely, watching the bold ones get in the water on the first day when the head instructor tells you it’s uncommonly windy, and difficult even for experienced sailors. Or you can plan to capsize and get wet, saying, “it’s only water” with a shrug, pretending you have a good deal more courage than you really do, and get out there and have the time of your life learning something new.
Every day of your life you will make that choice: stay safe in the dock, and do nothing, and go nowhere, or get in the boat and hope and pray that it all works out. And be prepared for when it doesn’t—one of the most important sailing skills is knowing how to right your boat when you capsize.
Sometimes you will be sailing along, thinking everything is peachy keen and you’re starting to be great at this! when the wind shifts, leaving you “caught in irons:” drifting in the wind, with a flapping sail.
No, you are not a failure. You’ve just been thrown another challenge to work your way out of, and with patience and practice, you can pick up a new wind and sail in another direction.
Maybe I’m being too simplistic in this, and maybe I’m just looking for an outlet for a frustrating career in the arts.
But I’m a sailor now.