Holding Patterns

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

We came on watch at 2pm, all rarin’ to go for a four-hour stint of actual, by God sailing — in the sunshine, no less. A mere hour and a quarter later, and the wind had dropped and moved right to our nose; attempts to pinch up still resulted in Polar Bear moving at an almost right angle to her desired course. Sigh. Away went the headsails, up went the engine and now we’re motorsailing yet again.

Truth be told, it’ll be interesting to see how this forecast nastiness a couple of days away actually shakes out. It may well be that we could have persisted on our off-course way and in a couple of days’ time had the forecasted tailwinds push us right where we wanted to go. But again, in a commercial venture, we have to play the odds.

So now, sitting in the sunny cockpit as the autopilot steers us along, is the perfect time to tackle a post I’ve been meaning to do for some time for my own sake. If you’re not into the navel-gazing stuff that appears here from time to time, this would be a good spot for you to head back to Facebook or wherever else on the Web you spend your time.

As I’ve been spending a good portion of this year so far, now almost three-quarters over, pondering over where I’ve been and where I’m going, it has occurred to me that I’ve been pretty much in a holding pattern ever since I moved to San Diego in January 2007.

At that time, I left Alaska, a place I loved and still love, for a couple of reasons. One, I’d been recruited by an old boss for a job. It was a job that excited me: back in the dot-com world with an opportunity to help shape the next wave of online media (or so I thought). And given the way my job in Alaska was going it seemed the perfect time to make a leap: the company that owned the magazine I worked for continued to make ill-advised (read: really stupid) moves on the business side of things that had me worried for the very future of the long-lived publication. In the time since I left, the concerns I had have been borne out: the magazine survives, but barely, and the last vestige of the staff that I worked with quit just last week.

The other reason I moved south in 2007 was because I was involved with a woman who lived in the Bay Area. No, San Diego is not in the Bay Area but it was just a short Southwest Airlines flight away rather than two long, redeye flights away, as was Anchorage. And with the job in San Diego being in the dot-com world, it seemed a better opportunity to get me to the Bay Area for good sooner.

Sadly, the relationship went belly-up not long after my move south and the job, after three years, went with it.

But it occurs to me now that I never fully embraced San Diego — the job or the (still long-distance) relationship. I was, as I say, in a holding pattern, waiting for something else to happen rather than living in the moment.

For instance, I had a notion that I could do the job in San Diego for a year or so and then make the move to a telecommuting role, preferably from the Bay Area but maybe even from back home in Alaska. Yes, I got into the local scene: I made a couple of great friends, I surfed a lot and I took up (and enjoyed) endurance sports. But looking back, I realize that San Diego remained a way station.

I never sold my home in Anchorage. I never bought the sailboat I was going to live on in San Diego Bay. I never bought the small home in one of the beach communities of north San Diego County as I’d have liked to (not that I could afford it, but you get the idea). The bottom line is: I lived in San Diego but I never really LIVED there.

I was on hold for something else. What, I have no idea. Well, that’s not true; I have some idea: I mentioned a couple of them earlier in this post.

Anyway, I left the San Diego job with no real idea of where to go or what to do next. I didn’t even race back to Alaska as you might have expected, simply because there wasn’t any work for me there.

But return to Alaska I did (after doing some fun things such as sailing from the Caribbean to New England and getting my scuba certification), where I put my trashed-by-renters home back into shape. However, again with the benefit of hindsight I realize that I didn’t really hustle while doing the job. I took my time, played a bunch (fishing!), interviewed for jobs (in AK and out) and again, bided my time as I circled in a holding pattern.

A return in the fall to California was ostensibly to make the job search easier but the economy’s woes kept that a pipe dream. And still I circled…

I moved all my stuff back to Alaska right after the new year. I was on the inside track for a job in Anchorage and my house was now in great shape. And in the spring, I went from a holding pattern to an expedited approach to land (to force the metaphor more than a bit).

On the very same day that I got the written offer for the job in Anchorage I also got a good offer on the house. And while I loved my house and neighborhood, and Anchorage and Alaska, the job wasn’t a perfect fit. I also had an offer to join my Dutch friends on a sailboat going to Norway, Iceland and Greenland for the summer, and then across the Atlantic to the Caribbean in the fall, and the image of being at my first day of work knowing that the sailboat was somewhere out there seeing God knows what was simply too strong. I went back into the holding pattern: I turned down the job and took the offer on the house.

The holding pattern continues to this day as I sit here and ponder next steps, steps that will — no matter where they lead — have to be taken in the next week or so. Continue the vagabond/adventure life over here in Europe? Continue the vagabond/adventure life aboard a sailboat of my own? Continue the vagabond/adventure life back in the States?

Or do I finally stop circling and come in for a landing somewhere? If so, where? Places I know and have tentative bases such as Alaska, California or New England? Or wherever there’s a career opportunity that interests and challenges me?

The sale of my home has left me debt-free and with the ability to continue being a vagabond. But I have to confess to an urge gnawing at my insides to get back in the game. There’s also the trepidation that by circling as I have for now a year and a half, no one will let me back in the game — and then what? And lastly, I have to confess to a powerful urge to stay out of the fray completely and live the creative life I’ve long sought but, to be honest, been too chickenshit to pursue. I’ve returned to the page — putting words on it rather than just reading them — this summer and I have to say that it’s been like a homecoming, a return of the prodigal son.

Do I have any answers yet? No. But I’ve been whittling down the list and there is progress being made. When we hit shore in a few days, I’ll talk to some friends back Stateside who have opportunities they want to discuss, and I’ll go from there. And in the meantime, I keep on creating as best I can…and putting my thoughts down on this (electronic) page as part of the whittling process.

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