Life Is Now

A friend and former coworker wrote the words that I’ve stolen for the title of this post. And she should know: a health situation while she and her husband are adventuring around the world put the nature of life and time into perspective for her.

It’s a perspective I share—albeit a step removed from what she went through. But I’m 52 and I’ve been dealing first-hand with how short life is since I was 19, and I got another dose of reality last week when I attended the funeral of a girl with who I grew up. It was a sad, tragic story, but just another in a long line of reality checks: my brother dies when he’s 16; a college friend with a husband and kids has an aneurysm and just doesn’t wake up one day; a dear friend from prep school and college, a truly superlative athlete and clean-living person, succumbs to cancer before she turned 50.

So life really is now. And I’m going to resume living mine. Of late I’ve been in kind of a holding pattern, wrestling with questions of what to do with the family home my brother and I co-own, and wrestling with a job search and questions about what I really want to do with my life. After a very positive discussion with my brother this week, I’ve decided to take the plunge and chase my dream.

I’m sailing south to the islands. For real. I’ve had two dreams in my life: one, to live in Alaska; and two, to load up the surfboards and sail away. I did the first (and miss Alaska dearly) and I’m about to go for the second.

The plan is as follows: sail down to Annapolis sometime in the next week to two weeks. I’d like to make it for the gathering of a sailing group of which I’m a member on Sept. 29, but if I don’t, oh well. But I do want to be in Naptown for the U.S. Sailboat Show the weekend of Oct. 6-7. I will once again help my friend with her booth at the show, and I’m also looking forward to seeing my Annapolis friends again. Saturday morning at the Boatyard, gang!

After the show concludes, I’ll hang around Annapolis for a bit, taking care of anything Further needs while I’m still in a place that has all possible resources. Then I’ll spend some time cruising south on the Chesapeake Bay, visiting some of the cool places I missed by not going with my friends Kathy and Renee when they cruised the bay around July 4.

And then I’ll wind up in Hampton, Va., for the last week of October. I’ll spend that week prepping along with 50 or more other sailboats getting ready to head offshore to the Caribbean as part of the Salty Dawg Rally. I currently plan to head to Antigua with the main bulk of the rally fleet, but I am thinking about heading to the British Virgin Islands with a splinter fleet. I definitely want to see the BVIs (I’ve never been there)…AND they have good surf there…AND folks say now is the time to go since they’re still rebuilding after the twin hurricanes last year and it’s still not overrun. But since they’re still rebuilding they don’t have all the infrastructure I might want…AND to get from the BVIs to the Leeward and Windward islands is an upwind slog…AND I’d really like to go spend some time in the French islands around Martinique. So maybe I’ll head to Antigua first, hang out in the eastern Caribbean for the winter and then hit the BVIs on the way north in the spring when it’s a downhill run from down south. Still pondering on this front…

But the point is: I’m going. And that’s where you come in: You can go too. Seriously. I will definitely need crew for any and all legs of this adventure. From Plum Island to Newburyport is a four-day run (a lot of which is motoring on the Delaware and Chesapeake bays if you’re reluctant). Then there’s the cruise down bay to Hampton: funky little towns and quiet creeks AFTER the summer bustle has receded. Wanna go offshore? It’s 10 days or so to Antigua; we’ll head east till we get past the Gulf Stream and then turn south. And for those who just want idyllic anchorages and rum drinks, you can get to the islands from the U.S. in one flight. Hell, from Providence to Martinique is a nonstop flight costing just $250 round-trip.

I’m serious about this last part: one of the reasons I bought Further (as opposed to another boat) is because it has two separate cabins, so even you married friends will have your own private cabin when you choose to come down to the islands and soak up the sun. I built the calendar page on Further’s site so you’ll be able to plan for where you might want to join us. And all I’ll ask you to do is bring some staples with you when you fly down from the first world (peanut butter and such).

Before anyone asks: No, I don’t have the money to do this. I’ve spent a good chunk of my retirement savings on Further and, before that, when I wasn’t working while I took care of my mom and dad. But “boldness has…power…in it,” as Goethe said so I’m taking the leap. And I’ll trust in the universe to provide once I take that leap.

Look, it’s entirely possible that I’ll get down there and, after a winter, decide I’m over it all (I’m definitely verklempt about a winter without hockey…). But it’s also possible that I’ll find I love the cruising life and go even further. Probably the reality will fall somewhere between those two extremes. But I was riding a motorcycle around the hills of New Hampshire a few days ago and I was looking at all the small hill farms and remembering back to when I daydreamed about living happily ever after with my preppy family in a place like that. Well, my life didn’t go that way and then a few days later I attended the funeral of a friend whose life went astray. My life has been absurdly blessed even without a “normal” life in stable, consistent location. But I realized that as nervous as I am about taking such a big leap, I really didn’t want to get to the end of my life and say to myself, “You know, I wish I’d sailed to the islands.” It’s the last really big item on my to-do list (there are tons of smaller bucket-list items). I’d much rather go for it, and if even if it sucks then when I’m at the end of my life I’ll be able to say, “Hey, it didn’t work out but at least I went for it.”

Because, say it with me: Life is now.

PS: There is one caveat to all of this: I continue to explore one potential job that is interesting enough to me that, if it works out and I get an offer, I would accept and resume my career for at least a few years. Don’t hate me for having a pragmatic side.

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