Maxed Out 

Running away from running away to sea

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There was a brief moment in my freshman year at college where I gave serious consideration to dropping out, joining the Navy, seeing the world and either losing myself or finding myself at sea. I was semi-despondent over having been dropped by my girlfriend but mostly humiliated at having been replaced by a guy with one eyebrow and scabby knuckles who wanted to beat me up because I’d congratulated her on discovering the Missing Link. And I was truly despondent over the imminent prospect of losing my draft deferral because I was about to flunk Organic Chemistry, a class I’d taken after spotting the fickle ex-girlfriend at registration and saying, "I’ll take what she’s taking."

As fate would have it, I passed the exam, tricked a new girl into dating me and changed my major to psychology in order to more fully understand the power of depression to make a guy contemplate doing seriously stupid things.

But the idea of running away to sea never completely left me. It was, I discovered as life got more complicated, at least as good a solution to the seemingly insurmountable woes of adult reality as repression, which I’d learned studying psychology was not the healthy panacea I’d been led to believe it was during my formative years.

The romance of the sea, coupled with the poetic grace of sailboats, always seemed to be a perfect exit plan whenever the grim reality of realizing I’d gone to work for a bank snuck up on me. Since that grim reality seemed to sneak up eight or ten times a day, Monday through Friday, I pretty much spent my brief career in banking being snapped back to the here and now by something someone would say, to which I’d invariably respond, "Aye, matey," a response that tended to foster my image as both an eccentric and, quite likely, not executive material.

I first started to sour on the sailing away to paradise fantasy when I began crewing for a guy who raced his sailboat on Wednesday evenings. Now, I know racers are a sub-variant of sailors. And in the same way ski racers are similar to skiers, albeit lacking in the social graces, they have an innate ability to suck the joy out of what can be a fun experience. My idea of sailing involves a refreshing beverage in one hand, the wheel in the other, very few clothes, short days and long cocktail hours. The racer’s idea of sailing involves screaming at crew, everybody moving in a blur or not moving at all, no beverages whatsoever and a congratulatory après race celebration that centres around cleaning up the boat.

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