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Free Will or Fate
How can one explain how a Romanian (who immigrated to Canada and settled in southern California) meet and marry a Taiwanese-Canadian (who spent most of her time on the East Coast and eventually moved back to the West Coast)? Is it free will or fate? We each exercised quite a bit of free will making choices during our separate lives. However fate must also be at hand to bring these two far-flung individuals together.
While we continue to observe stay-at-home protocols in California, these past couple of days have presented a few interesting opportunities to test our relationship, and how we both view this new sailing adventure.
As we discussed before in Go with the Flow, I am a “recovering planner” learning to go with the flow. Andrew is a “recovering dreamer” learning to stay grounded. We compliment each other as we move through this transition, and it often manifests in different approaches when new opportunities present themselves.
Here are three examples over the past few days and how we handled them:
- Content strategy
- Learning to sail a schooner
- Delivery opportunity
Note that our arguments are seldom heated. They are passionate, thoughtful, and always yield an encouraging resolution.
1 - Content Strategy
Everyone and their mother seems to be jumping on the coronavirus bandwagon. By that we mean, that all the content seems to cater specifically to how they are impacted by the pandemic.
We feel it’s pandering to the audience (i.e., click-bait). As a result, we have seen a noticeable decline in the quality of content that is put out in social media, vlogs and blogs across all content categories that we follow, namely: sailing, climbing, and cooking. (I realize the irony in that sentence.)
To be sure, the audience has grown both in numbers as well as in viewing time.
- Does serenadewind.com follow suit to try to generate a larger audience?
- Do we subscribe to a herd mentality and try to capitalize on this trend?
- Should we shift our strategy and try to compete in this melee?
At the same time, we had already been tinkering with our content strategy. So it could be argued, why not tinker a little more?
From the start, we had our own cadence for generating content, while the publishing of the content would lag behind so we would not be a slave to the website. We will eventually be abandoning Wordpress (and its internet-reliant approach) and moving toward Jekyll (an off-line approach with light connectivity requirement) to update our website.
This will be essential when connecting to the internet is expensive while we are offshore. Working on serenadewind.com v2.0 of course takes time, which is constrained by a full-time job and expertise (which Andrew has in spades).
Our initial content strategy seemed to work out well for us until current events (i.e., purchasing a boat) out-paced the publishing of such content. We thought it silly to publish posts about buying s/v Rachel J. Slocum 6 months after the event, and so we accelerated some and changed the order of other content.
By doing so, we naturally introduced an element of timeliness to the content and tying in current events such as the coronavirus pandemic. Can that be considered pandering? Perhaps…
React to Market
As we look around at the competition for viewers and audience, we see influencers, youtubers and vloggers putting up sailing content about how they are impacted by coronavirus. The quality of their content has declined, because they have a business model predicated on subscribers and patronage on a per upload basis. It’s understandable because that is how their livelihoods have been built, but it’s also a shame.
Luckily, we don’t have a business model to support.
While we acknowledge the impact coronavirus has on the timing of our adventure and perhaps how it might restrict our movements when we finally begin sailing, we can still produce content with integrity.
Where’s the fight?
Andrew raised the topic of having observed all these trends, and I asked the question, “So what do you want to do about it?” He said, “Not all questions need to have an action step.” In my career as a manager of people, I am accustomed to questions and issues being raised and whenever that occurs, I immediately launch into action or asking them to propose an action step.
That works in business. Can it work in our personal lives too?
Perhaps the broader issue is this: I tend to have an affinity for closure and he tends to be comfortable with ambiguity. Acknowledging this was the first step to settling the emotions of the discussion.
In the end, we agreed to stay the course we laid out. We are still very much constrained by time, and so we will continue to focus on our strategy. If you have seen the movie Chasing Amy, I liken our strategy to Alyssa’s approach rather than Holden’s approach.
ALYSSA So your new book seems to be selling like mad. HOLDEN It goes back to something my grandmother told me when I was a kid. "Holden," she said "The big bucks are in dick and fart jokes." She was a church-goer. ALYSSA Uh-oh - the cry from the heart of a real artist trapped in commercial hell - pitying his good fortune. I'm sure you can dry your eyes on all those fat checks you rake in. HOLDEN I'm sorry - did I detect a note of bitter envy in there! ALYSSA Nope. I'm happy my stuff gets read at all. There's very little market for hearts and flowers in this spandex- clad, big pecs, big tits, big guns field. If I sell two issues, I feel like John Grisham.
Much like identifying a waypoint, you head on a course knowing that winds may shift and the sea states will change, but at least you know where you’re headed.
2 - Learning to Sail a Schooner
We are pretty excited to be sailing some time later this year. Meanwhile, we keep busy with our own preparations such as:
- downsizing our personal belongings
- reading as much as we can about offshore sailing
- consuming videos about the sailing life
- talking to cruisers
- creating and refining a budget
- making sail plans
Even yesterday, rather than jump into our Tesla and drive to the grocery store to stock up, I strapped on a backpack and walked the couple miles to the nearest store to provision just to test out our gear. We are doing everything short of experiencing sailing or living aboard a sailboat. In many ways, we are putting the cart before the proverbial horse. We are buying a boat on the premise that once we step aboard, we’ll be able to handle her (eventually).
This is a bit counter to some cruisers who suggest you buy a “starter boat” i.e, a smaller one that you can learn the ropes on, bang around a bit, and basically get comfortable with the lifestyle. For more on this, check out Self-sufficient Sailor by Lin and Larry Pardey. Once you do that, then take on a larger more expensive boat and off you go.
Doing it the hard way
Do you remember the post about climbing until you fall ?
That leap of faith is certainly present in Andrew. For me, it’s been a slower process of letting go of mental blocks and gaining confidence. In some respects, I keep thinking I am a drogue in this relationship, holding Andrew back. He is confident, and I am conservative.
What we realized one morning after a heated debate is something a bit more nuanced than that. While he was picking away at my fears, Andrew unearthed something I hadn’t realized… that his tendency to project positivity and confidence helps him to overcome his own fears. So what I took to be a cavalier approach from him was something entirely different underneath.
Deep down, he is just like me, and we are both quite grounded in wanting to achieve our goal at transitioning to a life as full-time cruisers. It just shows up differently.
These moments of friction really clarifies our points of view to each other. How subtle communication can be and how easily things can be misunderstood. We are now in the habit of verifying what we’ve heard as opposed to jumping to conclusions.
When you believe and trust in your partner, what may begin as conflict turns out to be an opportunity for growth and to learn more about each other. For us, this was the whole point of embarking on such an adventure. Even if (a) we never buy a boat, (b) life throws us a curveball, or (c) we end up back in our same types of jobs, we will be happier knowing that we have grown closer throughout this process.
3 - Jeanneau Delivery Opportunity
Yesterday, we came across an opportunity to get some offshore sailing experience. A delivery captain was looking for 1-2 sailors to crew a delivery from the US Virgin Islands to Annapolis, MD. They depart on April 23rd for a 10-14 day passage over 1,400 nm.
At first blush, both Andrew and I were intrigued by the opportunity. We could learn a lot on a passage like that in a boat with comparable length as s/v Rachel J. Slocum. And since I had already quit my job and flights were fairly inexpensive these days, I could react immediately. Andrew’s situation is a bit more restricted, but he was also happy to take vacation days in order to have this experience.
When we paused and reflected a little further, we realized we still had to figure out a situation with our cats while we were gone for about 2 weeks. I’m still monitoring Oreo’s health day to day, so this wasn’t a task to drop without some consideration.
Meanwhile, both of us were itching to get some more time on the water before we moved aboard full-time, so is this the right opportunity?
Let’s sleep on it
The next morning, I mentally ran through the description of the delivery and decided it wasn’t for me for the following reasons:
- Their main agenda is to get a boat delivered in a certain window of time. This means motor-sailing for a significant portion of the time, and I try to avoid those situations, especially when I want to learn to sail.
- This boat ain’t the same as RJS. By design and construction, a Jeanneau is a fast coastal cruising, light displacement boat. She prefers lighter seas and certain points of sail. Anything outside of her wheelhouse, so to speak, and she will pound and pitch like a rocking horse, making the sailing experience altogether miserable. It’s no wonder that the delivery captain was giving preference to those who tend not to get seasick.
- Finally, I wouldn’t be able to have this experience with Andrew, and so what’s the point if we are not learning how we sail together.
When I told Andrew my assessment, he agreed. And then he said that if it were him, he would be able to find value and make the most of the situation despite the points I raised. That he would get on the phone with the delivery captain and in the span of 10 minutes be able to assess whether this was worthwhile for us.
I wondered then if this meant we should re-open the discussion to seriously consider this as an opportunity.
He said no, and that surprised me.
He referred again to his history for exemplifying confidence to get over a mental hump. When I told him my assessment, he agreed because the arguments I gave were sound and kept him grounded. This goes back to “recovering dreamer” and his appreciation of the perspective I bring to the relationship.
Just as we decided to stay the course in our content strategy, we are staying the course on our preparations to sail and live aboard a boat.
Free Will or Fate
Which path do we choose? It seems these days we are making such momentous decisions that it is difficult to know which is the right answer. If I had been given a questionnaire one year ago asking me which of the following statements are true:
- My next trip abroad will be Dusseldorf, Germany.
- I will leave my job at Warner Bros.
- We will buy a sailboat.
- All of the above.
- None of the above.
Guaranteed, I would answer #5. No question.
Here we are today and I am answering #4. With such bold changes being made, one has to ask the question. Is this free will or fate?
Andrew reminded me of what happened in the case of our decision to go to Boot in Dusseldorf. Intrinsically, something within Andrew compelled him to say, “Let’s go to Boot.”
Instinctively, I replied, “Whoa, wait a minute…”
However, in time, I came around and opened myself to the possibility and suddenly in January 2020 we find ourselves at Boot, not only to see a lot of sailboats, but also to see an obscure brand called Sirius that was a game changer for us.
Surely the hand of fate is in play, but in these small grounded decisions, we have an opportunity to choose.
Finally, I am also reminded that every decision is not permanent.
Thanks for reading!
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