I pulled another sweatshirt on to fight the chill in the air, three years of travel and play was coming to an abrupt end, the honeymoon was over. I had just spent the remainder of my savings on a 24′ sailboat in a town I had never heard of. It was the onset of winter, one week into my marriage and we were broke, bills were starting to pile up, stores were running low and it was cold as hell. If we didn’t find work and soon we would freeze to death long before we would succumb to starvation.
Below is a comment I received today that really got me to thinking about real life vs reel life. We watch movies, read books and magazines, blogs…The distraction from reality can be a wonderful thing but is any of it real? One by one I have debunked the reality of my literary hero’s to nothing more than story tellers, like myself. Sterling Hayden while he may have lived an exciting life and was obviously a brilliant sailor his existance was a complete contraction to his message in his writing. His famous quote is one of the most thought proving pieces I have ever read but in truth completely misleading in comparison to the life he led. We’ve all been poor at some stage in our lives, many have started at the bottom and moved to the top and war is something some of us have seen firsthand while others view it in two dimensions from the warm clean comfort of our homes.
Love the blog, but can’t let that last line on Sterling Hayden go without a comment. He was actually the real deal. He was a real life schooner captain in the last days of the age of sail who worked his way up to captain starting as ship’s boy. He was an OSS commando working with the Yugoslavian resistance to the Nazi’s during WWII. That last trip to the South Pacific that he made with his kids was done in defiance of a court order and using money he got on the promise to film the trip for publication. He went through the whole rags to riches thing several times in his life. Read his book. He was the real deal. He had huge clanging balls. That doesn’t diminish anything you’ve done, just couldn’t let it go.
Sterling worked a job he hated, always seeking more wealth; sailed away with a ton of stolen money only to arrive at his destination and swallow the hook. I spent the better part of a year studying him through his book, old interviews and even watching his movies. I finally realized that his famous quote was about his life and all the mistakes and ruin that came from it and his near constant persuit of money. Like a brilliant anonymous comment I recently received, Perspective welds a sharp knife.
My perspective as I wander through this life is that while all my hero’s have failed me, they never failed themselves. They took chances, lived their dreams as best as they could; and while their writing may be embellished, you can’t take away the simple fact that while we are all sitting around reading their words in our comfy couches they were out tempting fate to find their own personal nirvana.
When I started my journey it was open ended, soon transitioned seawardly and and now 10 years wiser I realize that it isn’t about adventure, travel, or exploration of the planet as much as it is about the soul. Take a look around you, I know very few people who’s lives don’t revolve 100% around money. Some of us have a lot but never enough, others very little and still never enough. I have been rich and I have been poor and honestly I have to say anything is possible when you have money. There are no words that can describe the feeling you have when you don’t know where your dogs next meal is coming from or wondering when the marina will auction off your boat because of late moorage. Going hungry sucks, as does freezing day in and day out because you don’t have heat. Living a life where you are always afraid of the day your cursing kitty runs dry is frighteneing as is knowing your insurance is late, registration is past due and its tax season. Freedom is a double edged sword.
My life is easy and compared to 99% of the people on this planet. I have never, nor will I ever know what true suffering is like. I live in America where people who live in “poverty” have cell phones and flat screen TV’s. The longest I’ve gone without eating since this all began was 7 days, I may have been hungry but I had a warm dry bed, was safe and secure and had clean water to drink. I find myself being pulled into the direction of humanitarian work in a very powerful way. I may not have many skills or any talents in this world but I have a voice and a growing audience. What to do with it all is an age old question, one I ponder more and more every day.
When I was a child I remember asking my father if I could have a B.B. gun. “This is America son, you can have anything you want. All you have to do is earn it” I will never forget those words. How to have it all and give it all back is the question, maybe I already have the answer…
Heading towards the station …
Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. We’re traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hills, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There sill be bands playing, and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering … waiting, waiting, waiting, for the station.
However, sooner or later we must realize there is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.
“When we reach the station, that will be it !” we cry. Translated it means, “When I’m 18, that will be it ! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it ! When I put the last kid through college, that will be it ! When I have paid off the mortgage, that will be it ! When I win a promotion, that will be it ! When I reach the age of retirement, that will be it ! I shall live happily ever after !”
Unfortunately, once we get it, then it disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.
“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.
So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.
~Found as published in Dear Abby, The Station, By Robert J. Hastings