There is an old saying that goes “we live two lives, and the second begins the moment we realize we only have one life to give.”
A decade into my career, I realized I had more to give in this one precious life. Yet it was evident that entering “new” meant surrender, releasing my white knuckle grip. So I resigned from my job with complete uncertainty about what was next. I burned my boat.
Well, I burned the boat but never actually left the water.
It was fascinating how it unfolded, but someone threw me a life raft. A new opportunity appeared immediately. What a relief! I would not drown in the depths while my trusty, old boat went up in flames!
But then the raft sprang a leak. You see, the next position was amazing but temporary. There I was in the water, the old boat wholly charred and the new life raft quickly losing air.
And then out of the blue, someone else tossed me a life jacket when another contract appeared! I put on the life jacket and entered the depths. But then a funny thing happened. Bobbing in the water without a boat, I realized that the water was so buoyant that I did not even need a life preserver. The life force of the water sustained me, and I did not sink.
A boat serves an essential purpose and can help navigate life. The vessel might even contain supplies and comforts for the journey: food, water, shelter, or even air conditioning. Watercraft helps us sail with the illusion of security.
And yet sometimes the thing that we think is holding us up is actually the thing that is holding us back.
Without a ship, there was no regularly scheduled maintenance needed. Also, the absence of a boat meant a whole new world of freedom and independence. Bobbing up and down in the water opens up new perspectives and new opportunities as well. It is possible to see with new depths without the walls and decks of a watercraft obstructing the view. Without a boat, we navigate life differently, trusting the buoyancy of the current.
We need less than we think, but it is only when we embrace less that we find more.
What are the boats in our lives? Careers, retirement accounts, smartphones? None of these are inherently good or bad. They have neutrality. However, if not held well, our boats can become problematic. In other words, it is not whether we have it, but how we have it. Are we steering the ship, or is the ship steering us?
While sailing the deep, blue seas, we may enjoy breathing the fresh sea air. We may also appreciate that the captain’s chair is comfortable. But we could wake up one day and realize that we drifted off course. You see, occasionally, our ships go into autopilot, and we get off track.
And if through deep reflection, we find ourselves off course or we realize that the boat is holding us back, then there is a life jacket waiting. Of course, leaving that familiar boat is not always easy. And it is important to recognize that often we have no choice in the matter. But it is not something to fear.
Perhaps your boat is sailing well, and you are enjoying the lovely view from the deck. But if the ship got off course, it might be time to ready the life jacket and come into the water.
You’ve got one life to give, give well.
About the Author: Jen Macnab is an avid reader, writer, and runner who recently resigned from a full-time career in higher education to pursue balance and simplicity. Jen launched Toward Thriving, LLC to support others on the journey toward best self.