A little over a month ago I returned to San Diego after five months away on a series of cruise assignments. I haven’t written any entries here since I left the ship in Athens, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I have been puzzling over what to make of this extended time away from what has become my “real life” on ships.
Fifteen months now of Living Travelly and one month on land provides a good vantage point to examine life in the city I have called home for over half a century. It’s been a chance to step outside myself and ask what about life here in San Diego is genuine connection and what is habit, what the relationship is between familiarity and a true sense of comfort, and the big question: what do I need to do to be what feels most authentically like the person I am now, and supports the growth I want to continue to have?
About five or six years ago, I felt a staleness in my life that I worked through by asking myself, “what about your life makes you feel as if you are growing by doing it, and what doesn’t?” The upshot was that I quit both the boards I was serving on, because I saw no place that service was going. More important, even though I still loved my work as a professor, I was ready to move on. I used to think I would retire when they carried me out on a stretcher, but I understood at that point that to continue to grow as a teacher, I would have to reinvent how I taught, which wasn’t a goal I wanted to take on in my sixties. I could still do the all-in job of teaching that I always had, but now with an understanding that I wasn’t going anywhere with it beyond the value it had in and of itself.
I see life in San Diego now from the vantage point of this odd kind of half-return, one in which I can’t just fall into my old routines, because I vacated my condo to rent it out, and my car is on the other side of the country with my son. But I can also see my life on ships at a bit more remove because I have been away longer than I ever have since I started this adventure.
So I ask the same question. “What about your life on ships makes you feel as if you are growing by doing it.” The answer is still quite a lot. Seeing things for myself is important to me, and I am seeing so much more of the world, however fleetingly, than I could ever hope to do with my own resources. My brain is working ashore in ways I enjoy, making connections between things, evaluating what I think, turning book learning into tangible sights and sounds. There is a constant parade of people onboard who provide stimulating conversation and opportunities to learn. I get to use my skills and knowledge in my lectures, and keep improving them as I see and learn more.
And in San Diego? I keep occupied in San Diego mostly by working on lectures for upcoming assignments. Beyond playing a little tennis and spending time with Dan and friends, I haven’t reconnected with my old life. I am not here long enough even to consider taking on any new activities. I am marking time as productively as I can, but little more.
I basically do two things with my life now: cruise, and prepare for cruises.
But I hear a drone in the background. I won’t continue to Live Travelly forever. I have my bookings already through the end of 2020, and there will be significant enough breaks between them ( by choice) that I will need to resume living in my condo and get a car. That will probably help me feel a little more grounded here, but is that what I want? I don’t think I upheaved my comfortable life just to go back to it. It won’t be enough for me. And I am not the same me.
I won’t be able to hide behind work on lectures when I have fewer assignments and most itineraries already prepared. I will be smack up against the need to find and embrace what’s next. I know, I know—there are lots of things to do. The old saws—take up a new hobby, volunteer. But absent any belief that something new represents a direction for growth of a sort I want, they are more like should than wants, and I have promised myself I won’t be ruled by should any more.
I don’t have to decide anything now, and for that I am grateful. Tennis this morning, then work on a lecture. My life at the moment. That, plus what still feels like limitless opportunities to keep growing. All I have to do is rise up to meet them.