"In the end the only thing that matters is your story" - Anonymous Aborigines Australian
The rock and roll of this boat sends familiar gulps of discomfort to my stomach. These waves, this tide, this sour salty smell so thick I can taste it on my tongue. A cold misty air bites at my skin and leaves its residue upon my beard. Like soft slick wet beads attaching themselves to the jagged sharp tips of freshly sheared neck stubble. I look out at the flat horizon composed of exactly half water and half clouds, searching hard to find its divide as the white caped waves blend so well to the misty white clouds above. I can’t see it yet but I know it’s there, beyond the curve in the earth is the land in which I was born, beyond those waves is Nova Scotia Canada, and beyond that horizon is my home. I can’t tell you how many boats I’ve been on since, I’ve simply lost count but this one I remember. I used to take this boat every summer to New Brunswick to visit relatives, years ago, a lifetime ago, before the days I could grow a beard in which this sticky wet air could grab. I’ve spent so many nights lying awake dreaming about the thought of my home, a comforting memory in which I wouldn’t allow myself hope of ever seeing again. I don’t why or what I’m afraid of finding in my old footsteps but I do know that being absent from them for this long was no mistake. What I do know is that we’re always searching for something whether we know it or not. To hike a mountain we aren’t looking for its peak, to kayak a river we aren’t looking for its source, to cycle a road we’re not looking for its end, we’re searching for the reasons in why we’ve originally embarked on them. To travel to world is not for the sake of chasing a sunset, it’s to discover the reason we left in the first place.
As this boat edges closer to the other side, I can’t help but to be reminded of the time I worked alongside an aboriginal Australian as we sat in the dirt next to a fire eating a kangaroo in the outback. I asked him how much money he gets paid for the work he does but what I was about to hear was the single most important aspect to living a full meaningful life. Without answering my question directly he told me this “We are the people of Arnhem Land and we believe in only one thing. Life is your book; everyone has a book be it white, black, rich, or poor. The only thing that matters is how full that book is and how well it’s written, because in the end, the only thing we have when we die is our story. All that matters between the day we are born and the day we die is the story we write for ourselves.” Ever since that day I try and fill every page per day with something worth reading, If I had to write my story it would go a little like this.
[[ There once a boy who spent his entire day standing on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean watching the sun rise over the water. He dreamed of travelling far across the vast lands and seas, believing he would find all the answers to life in the void from which the sun rose from the soil. One cold wet winter day the boy shivered away on the shore when he saw in the water a reflection of himself as on old wrinkly bearded man staring into the horizon dreaming of finding the source of the sun and the wisdom it held. Not wanting to grow old into a hopeless old man, the boy embarked on his journey and left everything he knew and loved to search for the place in which the sun rose. The boy spent years searching the plains of Europe, the deserts of the Middle East, the rivers of Australia, the Jungles of Asia, the rolling hills of Africa, and beneath the waters of the Indian Ocean. He was scared and timid at first but as the good and bad experiences presented themselves he grew braver, less hateful, learned languages, cultures, and religions along his way. Three years later, with thousands of experiences and tales of the adventures he had found on the road, he returned to the land of his youth from the direction in which the sun had set. As the man approached the shore in which he had watched the sun rise on that very same ocean so many years ago, there silhouetted on the rocks, still stood himself as a child looking for the hole in the ground In which the sun rose. The man walked up behind the boy completely unnoticed and placed his hand on the child’s shoulder. The boy looked up into his own eyes as a grown man and asked himself “Did you find the answers to my questions in the void where the sun rises?” The man smiled and said “I have found many things along my journey but I’m no closer to finding the answers you seek” The boy disappointed with himself, turned around and began to walk home with his head down. As he paced away, back against the rays of light, he noticed a long shadow of his body cast upon the ground from the early morning sun. He stopped shocked to see his friends and family were behind him only a few paces away the entire time but he had been too busy looking into the horizon to notice. The sun rose all around his body leaving his shadow cast out before him resembling a void in the earth. The boy spread his arms and puffed out his chest until all he knew and loved fit perfectly within his shadow and only then did the boy find the answers. The man, still standing there, smiled and felt no guilt for lying about what he had really found, for he knew that if he hadn’t, the boy would have spent his entire life searching for what was behind him all along. As the child embraced his friends and family, the old man walked into the ocean and swam towards the sun looking for the things he never intends to find. ]]
I can see the land now before the bow appearing and disappearing with the rhythm of the sea swell. The freezing cold rain falls against the windows and the outer deck, 6 degrees and rain, it’s funny I’ve been gone for three years and this place exactly as I left it. The passengers on this ferry are getting antsy and moving towards the exits waiting for the gates to open. I sit here writing, watching, reflecting on my past and procrastinating going out into that weather, and ultimately retracing a road I’ve already traversed. I half hope for this boat to sink before it reaches shore so I can spend a few more months floating around the Atlantic Ocean in a life boat, giving myself more time to make sense of this crazy life, piecing together why I’ve ended up where I have and why others haven’t. Whatever I’m afraid to find in my past mustn’t be good if the ultimatum is to starve myself in jungles, exhaust myself on bicycles, and expose myself to deadly waters rather than facing my final demons found in the place where it all began. The temptation to turn south and embark on a new journey is hard to resist but I’ve been starring into a horizon for too long. It’s time to saddle up and embrace ones who have been here all along.
I’m almost home.