In fourth grade I spent one full day and one full night aboard the C.A. Thayer, an all-wood, three-masted tall ship docked at the end of the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco. The Thayer lived out its retirement hosting privileged elementary school students for weekend forays into the hard-knock life of early twentieth century sailors.
I imaginary-sailed the Pacific Northwest shipping routes like I was born to do it.
I was the captain of the boat crew, and later promoted to second mate of the entire ship. Not bad for a land-dwelling 10 year old.
Every afternoon leading up to our trip, my teacher read from a hard-bound book called “tall ships.” In dramatic oratory style, he retold the epic adventures of sailors moving cargo from San Francisco to Seattle, Alaska and back again. I was captivated by the courage of sailors and the impossibly hard life of living and working on a wooden boat. I’d create vivid imagery in my head of my own life at sea. There was something so romantic and dangerous and edgy about being a sailor. Something daring and powerful. Something alluring about a life where fear couldn’t stop me from anything. A life where I faced challenges head on.
Even at a young age I was desperate to be liberated from the constraints of my anxious mind. I’ve always been bold and brave of intention but cautious and hesitant in action.
Tonight I’m staring out the window facing the Marina Del Rey harbor, crowded with tall ships.
Lately my life feels a little like nightwatch on the C.A. Thayer. It’s uncomfortable and uncertain. I know it’s impermanent but it feels interminable. I want to wish myself forward in time even though I know I’ll regret missing the experience. It’s at times dark and cold and at others exciting and full of possibility. My perspective changes moment to moment. Fear. Hope. Fear. Hope. Fear again.
I close my eyes and see my fourth grade self imagining her life at 28. She pictures a confident and sassy young attorney. Someone with a lot of influence and many powerful pant suits. A woman who parlayed her Thayer second-mate status into a prosperous political career.
It turns out childhood dreams are not an exact science.
I open my eyes and remind myself to be patient. I remind myself of the things my fourth grade self couldn’t predict. The things that shaped the real-life version of what she imagined.
I remind myself to keep dreaming about who I want to become. And to give myself a break about who I already am. To be daring and powerful. To not let fear stop me. To face challenges head on.