When it comes to defining moments, I have only a few. One of these took place at Sea World and it impacted my career choice of being a writer. I’ll tell you the ending before I tell you the beginning.
The end is that I write every day because I want to, not because I have to. Well, I mean – I do have to. I have to because this is the life I have carved out for myself and to be honest; it’s all I know. I’m not the best writer, nor the most talented. I just like to write. And when it comes right down to it, I made the decision to do something I like because I didn’t want to spend my life doing something I hate.
Those who know me also know that I’ve never been a fan of running with the pack. The people I love and trust are as diverse as I. This has always made my life much more difficult than it should be…
On the day my life changed forever, I was on vacation in San Diego visiting Sea World. It wasn’t the norm for me, I don’t take a lot of vacations as a general rule, and I certainly don’t get to see a lot of amazing things.
But when I met Shamu, I was with my then-fiancé standing in an underground cavern with 18 inches of Plexiglas between me and a killer whale. Shamu swam right up to me and stared. When I moved, the whale moved.
As I stood looking into the behemoths eyes, I suddenly knew that I could not continue down the road I was on – a road of corporate lunches and senseless meetings and endless micromanagement. I could no longer live within the confines of an aquarium, looking out at the world as it passed me by. It may be safe. I may have all of my basic needs met, but I wasn’t living.
Like the whale, I had been forced into a role that I didn’t want, and I suddenly started asking myself some tough questions: Was it better to be in an aquarium, fed and doted on and loved by all, but trapped within a 1 acre park of glass and water – or would I be better off in the open sea; taking a chance on being hunted, alone, maybe starving, but having 80% of the world to explore?
I chose the sea.
Upon my return from California, I quit my job. I let companies know that I was available for freelance work. I took to the sea like a killer whale.
And yes, I nearly drowned in the process…
I’ve been hunted and I’ve been hungry and I’ve been lost and I’ve almost drowned. But I learned to survive – I found my way. I discovered a way to navigate. I taught myself to hunt. I learned how to swim.
It hasn’t been easy and there have been many days when I sought the refuge of a harbor, a place to just lie safe under the protection of docks as I nursed my wounds and healed. But each time, I’ve swum back out to sea. I’ve returned to that vast unknown and I learned to use my sonar–that little voice telling you everything will work out–to make the best of every situation.
The sea is a mighty force. Positive thinking and visualization will not save you when a whaling boat seeks you out, or when fishing is bad, or when the weather turns rough. The tides constantly change, but you learn how to move with the ebb and flow. Regions I once considered to be the equivalent of the Dead Sea are now rife with life. Storms I thought would sweep me to my death eventually showed me the way to paradise. And throughout it all, the sea provides.
To be a full-time writer is to abandon the safety of captivity. No matter if you are a killer whale hunting the oceans or a small flounder in leagues of water; you will always be hunted, pursued. You must always keep your guard up.
But the trade-off is freedom from the mundane, and a hope that you will find your way.
And you will. The tides will eventually carry you to richer, more fertile waters. The storms will always pass.
Because when you take a chance in a life and move away from the norm–you focus on the journey, it is only then that you will see the benefit in having no destination.
What was your defining moment and how did it change your life?