“I felt so insignificant,” said one of our passengers when describing how she was afraid of swimming over the deep water on her way to the island. This statement really struck me because I remember saying the same thing about 16 years ago.
One of the benefits of long distance sailing is time to think. For some people this would be awful, for me, it’s heaven. I think I’ve said before that my mind is always busy and I have learned to accept it. Sailing for 27-40 hours is just what my mind dreams of! The amazing thing is that on the sea, there’s always a positive side to my thoughts, no matter what sad thing I may be thinking of. I love it. It’s like a retreat for my thoughts and I have no problem making it clear my favourite form of sailing is in silence.
Now, back to the idea of insignificance. The first time I felt this was when I was in the Alps in Switzerland. A friend and I had taken a hike and we came to this beautiful valley in between the snow capped mountains. After my initial reaction of my breath being taken away, it really was taken away. With panic! I had never felt this before. I was only 20 and had just been canyoning and sky diving in the same beautiful country. Why this reaction during a hike?? I realised it was because I had nowhere to hide. If an animal came to attack me, it was a long way to run before I could seek shelter. I felt insignificant in this huge open space. A strange thought, but it’s what I was thinking.
The funny thing is, 16 years later, I thought the same exact thing but instead of panic, I felt totally exhilarated and alive. I remember it very clearly, the sun had come up and CC told me I could go to the front of the bow where it was easier to watch the flying fish and spot dolphins. This was my very first time on the open sea. I looked all around me and saw nothing but beautiful deep blue and the white caps of waves. I remember thinking, “I am so insignificant in this big wide world. I am just bobbing along on a tiny sailboat that isn’t visible from an airplane or even the cockpit of a cargo ship. The things I am stressing about right now, really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things!” It felt great to be insignificant!
So on this most recent journey after the comment by the passenger, I got to thinking why the same thought evoked two completely different feelings. Here are my thoughts…
I spent my whole life trying to be significant. I wanted to get good grades so the smartest kid in my class and my teachers would stop bullying me. I wanted to be a good child so I was the favourite. When I was older, I wanted to have a doctorate degree because wow, that’s really significant, right? In my jobs, I not only hated being the new person, I hated when new people came in. I either had to find my place or fight for the place I had in order to keep my significance.
All the time I was single, I was searching for a boyfriend because I thought people who were in a relationship had more significance. Never mind if they were actually happy or not. I convinced myself I wanted children even though the thought always terrified me more than it made me excited. Women who have children are more significant, they have more meaning to life.
Of course whether these things actually have significance are up to an individual and what they want in life. I’m talking about what they really want, not what they are doing because that’s what society pushes them to do.
I got tired just thinking all of this and again writing it. This led me to my conclusion of the difference. When I was 20, I was very early on in this battle to be significant, or maybe in the thick of it. Of course being insignificant would bring me into a panic, it was my life meaning!!
Now that I’m 36, I have a different meaning in life. To have peace with what I do in my life. I’ve discovered it’s not any of the things I mentioned above. No wonder why it was such a relief to feel insignificant!! My battle was over and I was free to be me.
As I still had many more hours to think, I started thinking about whether or not insignificant was accurate. I am significant to my parents, family members, friends, CC and probably some other people. If I go, they will be sad. However, if I go, the world (and actually those mentioned above) will still go on. The world isn’t going to stop turning when I die. However, the air and Earth will start sucking what they need from me the minute I am dead and buried, so actually I guess I am significant.
In the yogic beliefs, every soul is the same, it is the shell (body and personality) that is around the soul that is different. There is the belief that we all have atman which is part of Brahman, which simplified, is everything. For those of you non-yogi’s, this means we are all connected.
With all this deep thinking, I decided that the concept of being insignificant was the same as having the same significance as everyone and everything else in this world.
In conclusion, I will happily stay on an insignificant sailboat doing all of the things I never knew I wanted to do until I did them and felt so much peace from them. And if in some other people’s eyes, that makes me insignificant to society, then so be it. I will leave them to find their own path to peace so they can stop worrying about others and just live.