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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
May 25, 2017
Stanford@SEA: Finding My True Self
I haven't written anything in this blog yet. It's not for lack of content; our trip has been a fantastic opportunity with much to write home about, and some things I don't think should ever leave the knowledge of the 21 students. I guess I wasn't really inspired to write anything. Today, after we left Rarotonga last night and I was able to reconnect with the outside world, I think I found something to ponder and put to paper.
Before we left Hopkins Marine Station, our Maritime Studies professor, Dr. Mary Malloy, gave us a piece of advice. She said that ship life is its own entity; the rest of the world functions without you, and that's just a fact you have to accept. In her previous voyages, she spent time wallowing on outside issues, but everything resolved without her presence. In the end, she said, you just have to let it all go, and dive fully into ship life.
Although Dr. Malloy isn't here with us on our voyage, I can still hear her voice as clear as day when I go back to those words. Every word she said is true. Out here in the ocean, it's just us and the sea. The blue ocean is our whole world, with nothing in it but our ship's company of 39, the SSV Robert C. Seamans itself, and the mysterious blue liquid upon which we sail.
Everything else is out of reach in our peaceful paradise, and in most things, that's the way it needs to be. Our group has solidified, even more so than we had during the land portion of this program. Strange watch times have become commonplace, sleep has become out of cycle almost permanently (which kind of makes it into a cycle), and the crew has become our dear friends. The Robert C. Seamans is now the "Bobby C", home more than in writing on our immigration papers as we land in new places, home more than many things in our lives.
And yet, on some level, it's a really difficult fact to accept. We're missing some of our beloved shipmates right now for other obligations (huge shout out to Barb and Big Robby - we miss both of you dearly!), responsibilities for which they can't be on this ship. The outside world moves on without us, without a second glance. I know for me personally I don't totally like this fact. Today was perhaps the biggest game of my younger brother's sports career, and the first major event for which I can't be there in any capacity, virtual or in person. It's killing me to be sitting on this ship, as amazing an experience the past 10 or so days have been, and not know what's going on at home. I couldn't focus on my watch duties at all as I thought about what advice I could have given him, what I would think in his shoes, what I couldn't help with from halfway across the world. As my mom can attest, I don't ever get homesick; I guess that's why I went to school 3,000 miles away from home. But this worrisome person, this was definitely a different me. Same complexion, slightly less clean and more salty, same knowledge and thinking, but not me. At least, it wasn't the me I was used to.
When I was in high school, an English teacher told me that you don't find your true self until much later in life. To this point, I had believed him 100%, and used that as a sort of justification for indecisiveness. I didn't decide to come to Stanford until three hours before the deadline. I haven't declared my major yet. I have no long term vision for my career.
Stanford@SEA is making me go back to those words and question him - what is stopping us from knowing who we are right now? This trip has given me the tremendous opportunity to reexamine who I am, look myself in the mirror and see if I recognize the person looking back. Just standing at the bow (or anywhere on the boat), closing my eyes and taking in the world around me for a few minutes has flipped my perspective on many things. Try it - wherever you are, just close your eyes and observe. It may just change how you look at the world.
Captain Pamela told us at the start that people meet their true selves on these voyages. I guess I'm just another salty sailor who's finding himself on the high seas.