What did I learn from rowing the ocean? Everything. This isn’t to say that I’m perfect or that I’ve figured out all of the answers to life (which, in case you were wondering, the answer to life and everything is 43), but rather my experience was all-encompassing regarding the intricacies of life. I had extreme highs and extreme lows. I felt admired, I felt hated, I succeeded, I failed, I was hungry, I was satiated, I was a good crewman, and I was a bad crewman. With all of the instances, I hope you’ll understand what I’m about to tell you; hell, I hope I understand what I’m about to tell you. This may, in fact, be more cathartic and for my own benefit than any of yours, but I hope that’s not entirely true.
The number one lesson I learned on the ocean is how beneficial doing tasks that seem impossible or implausible are for your mental health. Things that we deem hard, or frightening, things that we’d never in a million years dream of doing until someone or something puts the thought in our mind. “What thought?” you may ask.
Why not do this thing that grips your being and very existence through the fear of it? Rowing the ocean, for me was so far beyond anything I’d considered, I didn’t even know it existed in 2018.
For instance, I’d never lost sight of shore before this… I mean I had, in an airplane, but regarding the sea, I’ve never been so far out in the ocean that I couldn’t see land. I’ve also never been in seas larger than five feet, and that’s from trough to crest, a total of five feet (so really like two and a half feet) seas were the roughest I’d been in. Spoiler alert, I both lost sight of land and experienced seas much larger than five feet (try a ton of 30-40 footers and two 60 foot swells, in a 28-foot boat).
How in the fuck? How in the world? In what universe, what realm does this carry over to your mental health? Here’s how; There are no lies when you’re out there on your own experiencing your fears and dealing with your inexperience or other shortcomings. Whatever justifications, creature comforts, or support groups you have- don’t exist out there. Yeah, you can call people and yeah people can write you letters of support, but the point I’m driving home here, hopefully, is that in the middle of the ocean, there is no one else to blame for your shortcomings. You have to own all of your good and all of your bad.
The great thing that comes from owning all of your good and all of your bad is that you find your bad isn’t as bad as you’ve been led to believe and your good, well it’s probably a heap better than what you’ve told yourself. In regards to mental health, having a realistic and accurate view of yourself, absent all the bullshit that life heaps on is, in the opinion of this Marine, more than beneficial. In fact, I’d even venture to say that it’s necessary for true healing.
So row your ocean. Do what frightens you. Strip away all the bullshit. Allow yourself to be broken down until all that’s left is the real you. All your flaws, all your virtues. Unequivocally YOU. Then, build on the solid foundation that is the real you.
So rowing the ocean…do you need to do it? Maybe, maybe not, maybe you just need to row your ocean and tackle your greatest fear.