“[A]ll of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.” –President John F. Kennedy (1962)
Last spring, I discovered boating. Before long, the ocean became my favorite place, as well as my panacea. Perhaps it’s in my DNA—apparently, my French-Canadian great-great grandfather captained a ferryboat between Weehawken and Manhattan. Although genetics may play a role, I think that the explanation is simpler and more universal. In a 21st Century data-driven world, it is easy to spend nearly all our waking hours indoors staring at screens. Then our free time gets carved up shuttling the kids from place-to-place, managing the household, and that pesky phone is always dinging and buzzing, vying for our already-fractured attention.
I didn’t even know it last spring, but I desperately craved nature, fresh air, and space—things that are probably hard-wired in us as fundamental human needs.
As our society’s collective pace increases, those basic human needs are easily shoved to the wayside. We drink more and more coffee, drive, talk, and eat faster, and get crankier and less patient with each other. We’ve all seen the Starbucks patron yelling at the barista (“I ordered a SOY latte, not a SKIM latte!”), or the driver who swerves into traffic and flips the bird out the window when the person behind honks an angry response.
On the water, my world is reduced to the simple elements of speed, sun, and fresh salty air—for a few hours, at least, I can go back to whence I came. The ocean is peaceful, yet exhilarating. You’re flying fast, yet the breakneck pace of 21st Century life slows down. You have time and space to think, to feel, to be alive. That’s why I’m drawn to the sea.
So work hard, but don’t burn yourself out. Find your passion. Find your fresh air and your space. Then make room for it by saying “no,” here and there, to the endless stream of chores and obligations, which will pile on relentlessly until you set limits.
And be kind to the poor, hapless Starbucks barista—whatever is going on in your life, it’s not her fault.