Sometimes I like to sort of take a step outside myself and look at me from an outside point of view. Its fun and easy to do. Its a quick way to simulate an out-of-body experience. Plus it helps me to cope when times are tough as well as to appreciate when times are overwhelmingly good, and everything in between.
I’m tired tonight but its hard to sleep. My mind is racing but my body feels fatigued and worn. I’m not hungry, nor am I full. My body is a bit confused since I haven’t been able to relieve my bowels for about a week now. I want to sleep. I know I can but just not in this upright chair. Its about 3:00am. I’m on a boat, a fairly large boat; maybe there are three or four hundred fellow passengers on board. The majority of the passengers look different than me, come from a completely different background, share different beliefs, different values. As much as I would love to say the opposite, I don’t feel connected to them. I’m the foreigner if there can be such a thing on a boat in the ocean.
Women with their heads covered up have been passing by my chair every once in a while, leading their children on middle-of-the-night restroom excursions, or taming their crying babies. It seems that I’m not the only one with sleep trouble; we are literally all on the same boat. I’ve been watching some of the men laying their prayer rugs down wherever available space is to be found in the aisles to meet their five-prayer-a-day quota. I wonder if they know its already 3:00am so its technically the next day. Are they getting an early start for tomorrow? Will their God care if they didn’t meet their quota? I want to believe that they are just praying because they feel inspiredto connect with Him rather than aimlessly following tradition as I have found that so many from my own culture tend to do unfortunately.
Many others are watching an American Movie on of the few overhead T.V.s overdubbed in Arabic. Right now the “Golden Compass” is on; a movie I actually am interested in watching but unfortunately and ironically I don’t speak a lick of Arabic. A movie would be a nice escape from my racing thoughts and mixed feelings of relief and anxiety…
I instead resort to my imagination which is my loyal companion no matter where I a am. I imagine being my five-year-old self. What would i have thought of me being in this picture? Would I have believed it? Would I necessarily want to be here? All I can really conclude is that life is funny and can be interesting, especially when following a dream.The dream I’m referring to had its seed planted about two years ago during a very inspired state of mind. At the time of the planting, the soil was as fertile as it could be for dream to be planted in. I was experienceing the sense of accomplishment and elation that came with the final budding of a flower that had been planted fours years prior.
So I guess it starts there, when I was about sixteen years old. Its funny to think that my thoughts and actions as a 16 year old have, in a round about way, brought me to this curious setting of being the foreigner on an old rickety boat, slowly making its way over the Atlantic in the middle of the night. Well, a couple of friends and I came up with this idea in high school that when we graduate , we would ride bikes from our hometown, Whittier California, to San Francisco (about 600 miles). When I look back on it now, it seems so easy; all you need is a bike, some time and motivation. Of course there is a lot more to it like money for food, luggage racks, tents, sleeping bags, a route, etc.. But it is a pretty straight forward, tangible and attainable plan. But to a 16-year-old who knows of nobody personally who has done something of the sort, it seems pretty intimidating, especially when most people I shared my plan with brushed it off as a pipe dream. My problem was that I listened to them for too long instead of focusing on the cultivation of the dream itself.
Eventually I built up enough courage to finally undertake the endeavor with two other compadres by the time I was 20 which would have seemed ancient to my 16-year-old self. So in March of 2008, 3 years overdue, the three of us whipped together equipment; borrowed bikes, made make-shift saddlebags with cardboard and two-dollar sport bags from Pic-N-Save, borrowed a tent, sleeping bags, talked to bike shop employees about routes, got work off for less time than we hoped but just enough to make it, and set off at about 3:00am with little sleep due to last minute preparations into the cold and intimidating night with mixed feelings of relief and anxiety. Relief because we had actually completed the hardest part of the journey by taking that first pedal towards San Francisco. Anxiety because we weren’t sure if we would be able to handle it as we were not avid riders, hadn’t trained, had recently found out that we would be fighting the wind the entire way and we had a very limited time. In other words, there is no garauntee as we pedal into the unknown.
I’m feeling a very similar feeling of relief and anxiety now as I fidget around in my chair and watch the finishing credits of a movie that had seemed quite intersting but lost my chance in really seeing. I could see it again one day but it won’t be the same now that I’ve already seen most of the images. The surprise factor is what makes a movie moving right? Even if they’re movies we’ve seen over and over, we get reminded of that initial surprise. Or maybe what makes it moving is that we subconsciously imagine being in the movie, or the events of the movie happening in our very own lives. We imagine finding a love as perfect as the one on screen. What it would be like if we were in battle, having an evil spirit haunting us, putting ourselves in the shoes of others, in other worlds, other times, other situations. Stepping out of what is known, our own lives as we know them, and into the unknown. Its more than just the surprise factor, its the infinite depth of the unknown.
That must be why we’re moved. Moved from our lives and virtually placed into another’s. Movement in the end is the all-important force that brings life to us humans and the world. Think about even the brain for a minute; its only purpose is ultimately for movement. There are, of course, the obvious functions the brain executes for moving body parts and such, but even memory, imagination, emotions are, in the end, just used for affecting future decisions, or future movements.
As my train of thought fades away and I become conscious once more of the deep vibration of my chair as my temporary home slowly moves across the atlantic through this night. I’m reminded of where I just was and where I’m going to. That leads me to be reminded of that mixed feeling of relief and anxiety I’m feeling at this moment as well. Relief because I’ve completed the hardest step of bringing this dream into fruition by actually taking the first step among others to make it this far. Anxiety because I’ve actually made it this far and there is no garauntee as this boat chugs along into the unknown.
Its funny how the same thing can be perceived and felt in two completely different ways. Its not only funny, but can be frustrating among other things. Of these other things though, the way I prefer to see this ambiguity in life is that it is beautiful, but more importantly: liberating. I’ve often heard of life compared to a river, you know, going with the flow, not fighting the current and all that. But that is too black and white for me, either going with or against the flow, one direction or the other, correct or incorrect, right or wrong. I see life more like sailing in an ocean. You can go virtually in any direction you desire. But of course, there are conditions that you must adapt to like wind and current. We can’t control where the wind blows, but we can control where it blows us. It might mean that for some time we’d have to tack back and forth and go against it in a zig zag pattern but we are still harnessing its energy and ultimately ending up in whichever direction we set out for.
Thinking of this analogy helps me in a way to sort of mentally adapt to the situation I’m presently in and it gives me control over whether I want to focus on being anxious, which steadily grows into fear when fed enough, or on relief, which steadily grows into courage. I’ve been reading about sailing lately and there is a nice quote that reminds me of this thought: “The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change and the realist adjust the sails.”-William Arthur Ward
I fall asleep eventually despite the uncomfort of this upright and rigid armchair of a bed. Possibly triggered by this quote and my thoughts on the analogy of sailing and life, I lapse into a dream that has reoccured multiple times in my life since I was a kid: It is night time, it must not be too long after twilight becuase the sky still has an ever so faint hint of blue in it that is only detectable because of the contrast in silouhettes that are cast against it. The sillouhettes are of me, gazing up into the starry sky, along with the mast, sail and other parts of the boat i’m gazing from. There is something about the colors in the picture that simultaneously excite and soothe my soul. Its not so much an entire dream as a scene. An out of context scene of a parallel or perhaps future life I’m living. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing out on the ocean, which ocean it is and why I’m even on a boat in the first place but I can describe the feeling I feel while there. It’s an inspired feeling. I feel like I’m on an adventure of some importance and that my whole life has come down to this very moment. I guess every moment should be like that though except for that it usually doesn’t work out that way. We’ve got a lot on our minds; where we need to be, what happened yesterday, our wordly concerns. I feel that in this scene/dream I manage to focus on what I’m doing in the moment, whether that is navigating or pondering life and yet be free from those thoughts. It’s a beautiful feeling and it brings me peace just to day dream about it, let alone night dream.
My peaceful dream ceases and I’m awoken by a general stir in the boat. Fellow passengers are gathering things, packing bags and rolling up prayer rugs that will later that day be unrolled again and layed down on ground foreign to them. The majority of thse passangers come from Morocco, where this boat departed from. They haven’t become foreigners quite yet. We are still over water where there are no natives or foreigners. For the time being we are just simply where we are.
I get up and wait in line with all the busy men who want to get their duties done and finish getting ready to disembark our uncomfortable home we’ve shared the past 10 hours or so. Due to the chaos of hurried people I don’t even want to attempt a bowel movement since I will hold up the line and my efforts will mostly likely be in vain in any case.
Not surprisingly, as I walk out onto the side walkway of the boat I find that most of these people have jumped the gun and are preparing for a disembarkment that probably won’t take place for another hour or so judging from the distance of the harbor and the speed of the boat. However, I’m very glad to now have some time to scope out the place in which I will be taking on the most challenging part of my journey. Although there are no sign of any sailboats out on the water nor is there any sign of the marina in which they would reside, I’m still excited to see this industrial part of the harbor where our boat is pulling into.
I love the beauty of industrial city scape type of settings. I can’t help but to think that this industrial harbor is just as natural as a fjord in scandinavia or a tropical cove in the caribbean. It is only human nature to strive to survive. Isn’t every invention just an extension of our survival? First we invent what we need, then we invent what we think we need. The thought process which brings us there is very natural as it is thought of by means of the brain naturally given to us at birth. But it is true that the same brain can be used in several different ways based on what the mind wills. But why does one mind desire to will one thing while a different mind desires to will another? These desires must root from a mixture of the environment in which we have been exposed to, and any genetically passed down innate trait thus compiling our personalities. Either way, these desires come from very natural sources filtered through a natural brain and brought manifest by the movements of our bodies controlled by that brain. Just as I can be amazed at the uniqueness of a snowflake, the power of mother nature, the beauty found in every natural thing, I’m simply in awe at the intracacies and imagined history of the harbor here at Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria.
It must be about 6 or 7 am and the sun hasn’t quite peeked out from the mountains who command the island from its center, in a way keeping watch on the many still-sleeping citizens. It also keeps watch on all the early birds who have already awoken to jointly fill the flow of traffic on the highway which runs along the coast. I come from the huge metropolis called Southern California and seeing this view laden with well-paved roads filled with modern cars dotted by billboard advertisements brings me back after just leaving the barren Sahara Desert. The comfort I feel from seeing a somewhat familar view mixes in with the intimidation that this view carries with it. This is really where I’m going to find out if the seed I had planted two years ago will flourish or whither.
I am reminded again of the dream I just awoke from seeing the harbor and looking in vain for sailboats. This scene must have really made a strong impression on me over the years because in the temporary peak from the surge of inspiration I received after completing my bike trip to San Francisco I heard myself declaring that I wished to sail across an ocean. I didn’t say when, which ocean, nor did I have any idea of how I would actually go about doing such a thing. I just felt strongly about wanting to do it.
I remember feeling how far off that dream seemed even in my state of inspiration. I figured I’d be in my thirties at least, have to be rich or know someone rich who owns a boat, have taken courses in sailing, live in a harbor town for a while etc. before I could attempt something of the sort. I have hitherto accompished none of these pre-requisites, yet here I am at age 22, the only sailing experience received from reading half of a book on sailing and the plan is that I will be sailing out of this very harbor that my temporary floating home is now slowly arriving at.
While I was swept away in thought the sun had finally gained the courage to peak out over the mountains and make clear the view of Las Palmas and its morning bustle. The ship is pretty close and I go back inside to pack up, half wishing that we were not close to arrival yet. Sometimes I would just love if time stood still until I felt ready for it to start back up again. But although I may feel like that at certain times, now being one of them, I’ll admit that I’m glad it is not that way or else this boat would never arrive. I have a love/hate relationship with the fact that time still rolls along indifferent to my human worldly concerns. It challenges me to face situations that I would forever postpone had I all the time in the world. Lack of infinite time, at least for us humans and in this lifetime (if others may exist), is the blessing in disguise that is the impetus for many of our actions. If the lack of it didn’t exist then my feelings of intimadition and fear would not allow me to step off this boat let alone have boarded it in the first place.
After the busy single-file departure from the spanish owned ferry, I finally set foot on the island which I fear so deeply and yet am relieved to finally have reached. I take note of the streets, signs, people and ambiance that I hopefully will not get to know too well as I wish to depart from here as soon as possible. I would have never come here if it didn’t happen to be the biggest sailboat harbor for boats sailing across the atlantic from Europe to the Americas. I am embarrasingly admit to myself that I’m so focused on my goal now that I am actually on the island that I am, in a way, indifferent to everything around me that doesn’t have an influence on that goal, such as the history, culture and people of the island. Little do I know now that my narrow search of a boat will prove to be much more than just checking off another goal on the bucket list as I take my first walk down the oceanside road which leads to the sailing marina. A walk that will be the setting for many moments of life pondering, stark changes in emotion and friendly conversations with future friends. Although my loyal friend Imagination is still with me on this first walk, I forget about him in my haste towards the harbor and thus my today self cannot fathom what my future self could experience on the days that will come walking down this and other roads here on the island…