I feel SO old when I say this, but the “kids these days” have a phrase: FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a very real fear for all of us, not just the teenage contingent. It’s why we’re all glued to our phones all the time, trying to connect, trying to be involved, trying to be there, trying to be anywhere but where we are right now. When you work on a boat or a ship for weeks or months at a time, you miss half the year at home. You miss weddings, funerals, holidays, birthdays, new babies. I used to agonize over missing it all. But lately I’ve tried to take my own oft-administered advice, and remember that I chose to be here, that this is where I belong. What someone is experiencing on land today is not what I am experiencing on the water. Their life is not mine, no matter how much I love them, no matter that I would prefer to be by their side for all of it.
Last week I missed Russian Easter, a wonderful holiday that I’ve highlighted here before – I had a few lucky years where I was always around, but this is the second year in a row that I couldn’t be at home for the festivities because I was on this boat.
This past weekend I missed Opening Day in Seattle, the beginning of the summer boating season and a day filled with rowing regattas, boat parades, shenanigans and daydrinking with some of my best friends.
And of course, yesterday was Mother’s Day; flowers and phone calls replaced time spent with mom, and she knows that’s as good as it is going to get sometimes. When I miss special days, the only thing I can do is make up for it with a special day when I do come home, regardless of the date or whether the holiday has already passed. It doesn’t make me as sad as it used to, a fact that makes me a bit uneasy because I feel like I’ve become desensitized to the importance of those special occasions, but I have to cope somehow or I would be miserable all the time.
Sometimes, moments of beauty come along that show me why there is nothing wrong with belonging here, now, instead of on land. Yesterday morning at half past midnight, we were anchored with our barge in Port Valdez when waves of northern lights began to flow across the perfectly clear, moonless, starry sky. I recently bought a new camera and had it shipped to me at work – an Olympus OM-D with a beautiful lens – in anticipation of occasions such as this one, and it arrived just in time. With a wide aperture and an exposure length reasonable enough to allow me to take pictures at night without a tripod, I pointed my camera at the sky and started shooting the lights. The result was unbelievable. I was whooping for joy with every shot, gasping for air, in total shock and awe. I couldn’t believe what was happening; the beauty was too glorious for me to fathom. What amazed me was how my lens was able to capture and distill more light and color than I could see with my naked eye. I could see the lights moving, shimmering, but it seems my brain couldn’t process the intensity fast enough.
Before going to bed at the end of my watch, I sent the photos to my mother, with love and good wishes for Mother’s Day. When I spoke to her last night she told me the photos had set a glowing mood for the rest of her day. This is enough to make me happy to have been in Alaska yesterday, instead of at home. I don’t always feel this way, but this time – it’s enough.