So, a few people are asking what is it exactly that I’ve been doing while Andrew slaves away on Sonrisa at the boat yard?
Answer: My continuing experiment in the art of appreciating freedom.
The challenge facing me as we neared this time on land was a complete lack of objectives calling me to work. The only really critical objective for me to attend to is getting my back and general health into ocean fighting shape. But, that project can only take up so many hours per day. What should I do with the rest of my time? As we neared haul out, Andrew started to fret about how I could stay happy with even less obvious targets to occupy my time. If you’ve been following this blog for long, you know I’ve already gone the rounds with this sort of (over) thinking even while we are in the middle of sailing. (Remember when we paid off the house, I spent a week in a village being primed for having babies, and then my Internal Overthinker went Rogue?…yeah.) But, I worked through those issues and found myself more contented at sea. This next phase of my life is just Training in the Art of Appreciating Freedom, 2.0.
When this situation first presented itself, I had momentary but glorious visions of learning to be an effective Sorceress of Boat Maintenance. While my self image as a “successful circumnavigator” may have a wrench in her hand, the honest truth is I have zero desire to be a maintenance maven. I would be starting mostly from scratch and I don’t particularly enjoy it. Part of this is because Andrew is so competent and capable in this area; any past efforts I’ve made only duplicates his skill set - but slowly and poorly. Why would I do that when I don’t enjoy it, I’m not interested, and Andrew is so good at it? Working as a team requires you to respect and trust another team member’s skill. In my opinion, sometimes this means accepting that one area of the job is well covered without your involvement. I am always willing to act as Andrew’s second layer of octopus limbs when he needs me, but to take on my own maintenance jobs seems to be more trouble than help and doesn’t seem like a good use of my time.
The next thing I thought I “should” do is take on some contract legal work and make some income to refill the sailing kitty. I put out my feelers, took on a few odd jobs here and there, but my heart is not in building a legal practice from Malaysia. Legal work comes with a lot of responsibility, unpredictable timing for incoming projects, and a whole slew of administrative hurdles you have to pass. I front loaded my work efforts in the ten years we prepared for this dream so I wouldn’t have to hunt and peck for jobs I can do at sea. I don’t enjoy taking on that level of responsibility in a remote location almost completely opposite from the time zone in which my clients and colleagues are based. I’ve found that an office, with my legal assistant and an IT professional at hand, is a far more enjoyable and relaxing way to do business. It’s a personal preference, and someday when I have no other choice maybe I’ll be singing a different tune.
Saved in my folder titled “Notes for a Future Legal Practice At Sea”:
“Maybe I should start a business,” I think to myself. “One that is not quite as time sensitive and challenging to run from sea? I love building strategies, maybe there is something I can tap into there.”
So, in the first few weeks Sonrisa was up on land, I split my time between yoga class, traction at physical therapy, exercises lead by the lady who floats on clouds, the blog, a couple legal briefs, and consulting on a couple goal strategies for friends who had either personal or business goals they needed help seeing from a different angle. But, I never felt like I could get into the '“flow”. Whenever a distraction offered itself, I was keen to take it.
Before they left to go visit home in Denmark, I enjoyed the company of our Sailmaker Phil, his Wife Astrid, and their cute baby boy Esban. We would often grab lunch and/or go swimming in the pool at the apartment complex.
Astrid, Andrew and I tried to go see Dumbo three times all without success for various reasons including as explained by the man behind the window: “the projector reel no work.” Do theaters still use projector reels? We had to eat the cookies Astrid made to sneak into the theater as “consolation cookies” rather than “movie cookies”.
One evening after a day that felt particularly aimless, I complained to Andrew: “Nothing obvious is rising to the surface, I’m afraid I’m going to get to the end of these several months and have nothing to show for it.”
“You need to think of this a different way,” Andrew told me. “What would you want to do if you had four months of absolute freedom with no obligations? Because that is what you have.”
I would tell stories.
This is always my answer. It was my answer when I was six, hand writing a novel about my dolls. It was my answer when I was 10 and I asked Santa Claus for an electric typewriter. It was my answer when I was sullen, 13, wearing only black, and writing bad poetry. Developing a good story is the part I love best about playing classical music on the piano. It is the part I love best about being a litigator. And, it is non-negotiable on this sailing trip. I love sailing, I love the goal of this circumnavigation, but the thing I love most about this trip is the fodder it gives me to tell fun, true stories of the people we meet and places we see around the world.
“Do it, then!” Andrew tells me. “Focus on that.”
A few days later, my first writing project bubbled to the surface as a real opportunity.
Ages ago, all the way back in Tonga, I penned a manuscript for a children’s book all about how Oddgodfrey, Andrew’s unicorn alter ego, led us from the mountain desert of Utah to cross oceans. From the beginning, the manuscript was….not that great. I talked to various people about illustrating the concept, but no one seemed invested in the project and so, it lost my attention. Until now. An old friendship led to legal work, led to strategy work, then connected a friend of a friend to me. “Becky is in her senior year of her fine arts degree at the University of Utah, maybe she would like to illustrate Oddgodfrey.” My old friend says to me.
I contact the illustrator. We have a couple conversations, and she seems enthusiastic.
“Here is a sample of the character I envision for Oddgodfrey.” Becky says in an email with her initial sketch. My hand tingled as I moved the cursor over the PDF attachment entitled “Oddgodfrey.”
I fell in love.
Well, maybe I fell in love again?
Given the fact that Oddgodfrey is the imaginative, unicorn alter ego that lives inside Andrew’s heart, it’s not hard for me to fall in love with that guy. But, when Becky’s drawing stared me in the face, I could see all the hopeful optimism, explorer’s curiosity, and misery be damned grit that makes Andrew’s sailing dream so powerful embodied in a happy little illustration.
The timing couldn’t be any better. In her senior year of classes for her FIne Arts major, Becky enrolled in an Illustration and Book Design course. “I’d like to make Oddgodfrey my project for class if that is all right with you.” What are the chances? It seems meant to be. Maybe Oddgodfrey has just been waiting for Becky to be ready to take on the task.
In one moment, her drawing took my lackluster interest in my half-assed written manuscript from a little craft project to a project I believed in. I ducked my head down with a wild-eyed fervor and began many, many rounds of re-writes. You have no idea how many hours can be spent re-writing the approximately 1,000 words in an early reader children’s manuscript. I didn’t track those hours, and now, I wish that I had for curiosity’s sake. With each re-write, I understood little Oddgodfrey more and more. And, like when he proposed this sailing trip all the way back in 2005, I started to believe in the Unicorn Stardust he peddles.
“Now, it’s time for you to write a Pulitzer worthy novel.” Oddgodfrey tells me, as he inhabits my own heart.
Oddgodfrey never bothers himself with plans that are less than grand and overblown.
Even without his “Pulitzer worthy” qualifier, I can reason out several reasons to put the brakes on this proposed past time. Have you ever thought about writing a book? If so, have you ever researched the abysmal statistics surrounding (a) the number of books available to be read in the US alone; or (b) the amount of income the average author receives from a book? Now add in all the other mediums competing for reader’s attention and time, and you will realize quickly that unless you are the .000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of would be authors, you are very unlikely to make any money at all from your book. Andrew has been swift to point these statistics out to me in the past, at times when his inner Evil Overlord started to believe that writing endeavors may pull me away from the sailing dream. The unlikelihood of success hints that writing might also be an inefficient use of my time.
“What do I care?” Oddgodfrey says, “I’m not in this for money.”