Maybe this sounds a little dramatic but this adventure was the one that really helped me find my inner strength, it changed me, it shook my soul like nothing ever had before. Sailing from Sydney to the Central Coast is no great feat but it’s what happened that made it an enduring adventure.
To give some context, my dad had been fixing a yacht in Sydney for about 1 year and when the yacht was seaworthy he needed to sail it back home to the Central Coast. So he invited his friend Alan, myself and my mum along as the boat crew. The trip would take about 2 days.
I was excited! But at the time, I was a complete mess. My girlfriend and I of three and a half years who I met when I was 16, had broken up with me only a few weeks before and 2 days before we were leaving for the yacht trip this ex-girlfriend called me and told me that she was in a relationship with another guy.
I never thought it was true that heartbreak could give you physical pain but I felt it then. I felt like I was broken and I didn’t know where or how to find the pieces to put myself back together. But that all changed on the journey between sailing from Sydney to the Central Coast.
The first day was full of excitement. We had begun our quest sailing from Sydney to the Central Coast. As we sailed out through the harbour we entered the great, expansive open ocean. We were soon sailing on ocean waters, it was calm and tranquil. We were all having a great time chatting and relaxing. There is something transcendentally and oddly calming about the ocean. When you are so far out at sea that the only thing you can see is the distant shore miles away, it makes you feel safe and in these moments I forgot about all the problems that awaited me back home. It was just me, our trusty vessel and the infinite possibilities that lie out there, in the vast expanse of the open ocean.
But I will admit, beyond my poetic romanticism of the ocean, after some time passes, you do get a little bored. So I spent a lot of time just staring out at the ocean looking for some wildlife or something other than blue water. And as it turns out, the ocean is teeming with life. I remember seeing a flying fish. It flew out of the water, spread its weird little wings and glided across the sea for at least 30 seconds. It was one of the strangest things I’d ever seen. For a moment, I thought I was either in the movie Avatar or I had gone crazy (we were definitely in the movie Avatar).
We also saw seals swimming near our boat and to my surprise, we witnessed one of the most majestic performances by the biggest animal on this planet. A whale breaching. First, we saw it’s gigantic tail in the distance, then the water flying out from its spout and then it jumped, danced and played for us. When you see its entire body out of the water, it shocks you. They are so inexplicably gigantic it will make your jaw drop in awe. Majestic, beautiful, graceful but at the same time impossibly powerful.
The day did not start off too well. As soon as we peeped our tired little heads out of the cabin we could see that the weather was not in our favour.
As the day went on, the weather, like a persistent enemy, just kept attacking us. Soon it started raining, then it started pouring, then the waves formed into never-ending rolling giants and the boat was tossed around like a ragdoll. They were horrendous conditions and we were so far out at sea that we couldn’t see the slightest sliver of land.
If you haven’t experienced conditions like this, it may be hard to comprehend how it feels. But maybe I can draw a sketch of it in your mind using carefully crafted words.
The relentless rain pelts down on you, bucketing, you are freezing to your very core, bones shaking. Seasickness overwhelms you as you constantly vomit and there is no escape (if you go down to the cabin it gets worse). The monstrous waves taunt you and throw the boat up and down, continuously, without end.
Now maybe for the first hour or so I still had my sense of adventure to lighten the mood…
But this went on for hours on end. With no relief. I remember sitting on the side of the boat, with my hands spread wide holding both sides of the railing with my head tilted down so I could vomit straight into the sea. But the part that challenged me the most wasn’t the storm, it was my inner world. My mind, thoughts and emotions. They were more monstrous than the waves, more persistent than the rain and felt more awful than seasickness. My heart was a twisted mess, my mind scattered like the wind. I was so angry. Angry that someone had hurt me so badly. Angry that she moved on so quickly. Angry that I couldn’t get over it. Angry that I was angry about this. Anger is a powerful emotion, it rages like a storm inside of you. These recurring thoughts tortured me…for hours and hours.
But then, I had a thought. If I could endure this amount of pain both physically and mentally, for this long, then what couldn’t I do? This thought instantly changed my mood, I saw myself as a warrior fighting in battle to regain his true self, not a victim.
Then, I saw myself as if from a distance, a man sitting on a yacht, far out at sea, in a storm, freezing, sick and heartbroken but still with the willingness to endure. I saw my entire life from a distance, all I had been through and you know what…I was proud of that man because he was still there, doing his best, enduring, persisting, despite the pain. But this persistence wasn’t just gorilla toughness for the sake of it. There was something beyond the suffering that required me to persist and I had to find out what it was and why.
This subtle shift in my mentality changed everything for me. This was about a year ago now and since then, I have used this mentality to accomplish things I have always dreamed of. I have seen things I could never imagine, moved halfway around the world, met people I will never forget, done things I never thought I could do and continued to push my body and soul to their limits. I have changed for the better and I have gotten closer to that person you imagine yourself being when you are 10 years old. In a strange way, that 10-year-old version of me was very wise because he always knew who I wanted to become and not what I thought society needed me to obtain. He could look beyond it all and imagine with limitless bounds.
In the end, we got home safely after enduring the storm for about 6 hours. The trip was over, the rain had passed, the storm had calmed down and the waves had settled but the lessons I learnt from sailing from Sydney to the Central Coast and being forced to sit with my own mind when it was bombarded with immense pain (both physically and mentally) for hours on end, will stay with me and give me strength, forever.
“My life amounts to nothing more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is an ocean, but a multitude of drops?”– David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas