On Relationships and Reality

Detachment.

This word is the best I could think of to describe living on a cruise ship in the South Pacific for months on end.  Don’t get me wrong, making friends on board isn’t hard.  It’s actually probably one of the easiest places you can really get to know someone because you are always around each other.  For better or worse you’re stuck together.  But knowing that everything is temporary makes it very hard to truly care about anything.

One of the beauties of traveling is that you are who you are in that moment.  Traveling helps to keep things pure.  There is no past to hold you back or future worries to bog you down.  Your reputation back home doesn’t mean shit.  Once you leave that place those opinions and that part of you ceases to exist -for all intrinsic purposes anyway.  It is both petrifying and exhilarating.  You have the chance to reinvent yourself however you see fit.  It is important to stay true to yourself, your goals, and keep making strides in becoming who you want to be.  Because every day is an opportunity for betterment and change.  I urge to take advantage of it while you can.

Leaving your home country for a long period of time bears a lot of similarities to leaving your hometown when you go away to college.  The biggest difference is that here its 6 months not 4 years.  The internet is patchy/pricey, there’s a language barrier because people come from a vast assortment of different places and an array of different ages.  The food is about the same.   Oh and there are no classes and more of a social scene and prettier girls (looking at you Creighton and smh).  Some crew members are lifers some will quit after a few months.  But that just adds to the intrigue and freedom to the life style.  It allows you to see the whole spectrum of life with just a few conversations.

One thing I’ve really noticed since I’ve been on board is how easy it is to hide from the “real” world.  To feel detached from everyday life.  It’s hard to get emotional about anything back home because you are so out of the loop.  You hear about things way after they happen- if at all.  There is no question that many people find that appealing.  They don’t have to deal with any real day to day problems.  Everything on the ship is temporary.  And for some that in itself is liberating.  But it can also destroy a person if they let it.  I truly believe that life is all about perception and timing.  And living on a ship it’s vital to acknowledge the detachment and not let it consume you.

I’m sure you remember when the United States government shut down a few weeks ago.  I didn’t find out about it until 8 days INTO the shutdown.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m abroad in general or because I’m on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with erratic internet, but it is too easy to bury your head in the and only worry about your own day to day activities.

Ship life becomes all you know. I rarely know what day it is.  I can only identify it as a “sea” or “port” day.  Last week I would have bet my life it was Sunday then I looked at my watch and it was Wednesday.  At times I really do miss having a weekly routine.  Humans crave consistency.  It’s in our nature.  We find comfort in knowing what’s going to happen.  But any life worth living can’t be lived only in your comfort zone. But the funny thing is that in extending you comfort zone you expand your experiences, interests, and friends circle.

If you’ve ever gone to summer camp or something where you are gone for days if not weeks you know what I’m talking about.  People you’ve only met for a few days become your best friends. You can’t imagine how you survived without knowing them.  You have trouble remembering life before you got there.

Living on a cruise ship magnifies events more than I can express. When you spend hours upon days with the same people relationships escalate.  One week of ship time equates to 3 months of real time (this is a Todd guestimation, not an exact science.) Which means that I’ve been on this ship for 42 months (about 3.5 years) This is neither a positive nor a negative thing but an observation.  Something I didn’t even consider before coming on board.

Another thing that I didn’t realize was how hard it would be to say good-bye to people who’ve become close friends but are leaving the ship.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when someone you don’t get along with (to put it mildly) gets off the ship and that is one of the best feelings of ship life (behind ice cream day and pay day.)   Call me selfish, but people constantly getting on and off the ship never even crossed my mind.  All I could think about was my own start and finish date.  In some ways, detachment is a positive here.  It makes it hurt less when people leave.  However, the thing about detachment, in any case, is that it’s a double sided sword.  Yeah, you limit the risk and hurt you may feel but you also limit the joy and happiness available to you.

The closest experience I’ve had to compare it to is when you graduate college and throughout the summer following said graduation a majority of your friends slowly begin to trickle away following jobs, significant others, grad school, or other opportunities elsewhere.  Every weekend is someone’s last weekend.  You are constantly “going out” (as much as you can “go out to the one crew bar), feeling sad, and acutely aware that in this case you could literally never see this person again.  It was mere coincidence that you were both in the same place at the same time to begin with, right?  After that first chance encounter friendship and relationships takes work, from both sides.

Some (looking at you pessimists) would think that this constant betrayal of leaving would cause you to want to lock yourself in your room and not get close to anyone.  That things can’t “stay gold.”  For those who don’t get that reference it’s part of the following Robert Frost poem:

            “Nature’s first green is gold,/ Her hardest hue to hold./ Her early leaf’s a flower;/ But        only so an hour./ Then leaf subsides to leaf./ So Eden sank to grief,/ So dawn goes down         to day./ Nothing gold can stay

The poem has many different interpretations.  It depends what situation you are applying the message to.  In this application, he means that sometimes things are great.  They’re ideal.  But they can’t stay that way.  Things will change and eventually, the sun will set.

I agree things can’t stay the way they are.  For better or worse.  But that isn’t any reason to not enjoy them when they are gold.  Never let the knowledge that tomorrow things might not be perfect prevent you from enjoying things while they are.

It’s weird, on the ship where things are constantly moving and changing I’ve found that in most cases the people truly enjoy the “golden times.” People know that their time together is short and that things can’t last so they try and take advantage of every moment they can.  This goes for friendships, relationships, shore excursions, and even parties in the crew bar.  They understand that happiness can be fleeting so they enjoy it whenever they can.   We always joke about enjoying the “small victories” when you can because being this isolated they are all you get some days.  Life is all about the little things and learning to appreciate them.

Friendships on the ship also put friendships back home into perspective.  Being away from home helps you see things more objectively.  Jordan France, my best friend in the world, studied abroad and when we skyped he told me “Bro, it’s really interesting to see who goes out of their way to keep in touch with you when you leave, those are the people who know you have to fight to keep in your life.”

Through this experience, I’ve learned that I have some truly great family and friends.  Some I’ve known for years some.  Others only a few weeks before I left.  Regardless of the length of our friendship, they have made an effort to keep our friendship strong almost as if I wasn’t 13,000 miles away.  People I never expected to have done a great job keeping in touch.  So I want to thank all of them (you know who you are and who you aren’t) for making me feel connected to them.   Being away for so long makes it easy to forget who you were and who cares about you and that can be a very dangerous thing.  So once again, thank you all for helping me to keep the evil that is detachment away.

Stay Gold.

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