“THE PESSIMIST complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William Arthur Ward
It came at precisely the right time, this trip—an invitation extended after a celebratory shot of tequila in a dark New York club and a swing around the dance floor. “You,” he said. “You’re comin’ on the boat.” I asked him what boat and he said it didn’t matter. The next morning he sent me an emailed invitation and a sample itinerary for a flight taking off in barely four weeks. Within an hour, I had purchased an insanely expensive ticket to Turkey, having not even bothered to ask who else was coming. Thinking too much has never served me very well, anyway. In fact, thinking too much has always served me worst.
About a month later, I’m on a sailing yacht with twelve people, eight of them strangers, dangling across the pulpit as we head towards a blistering sunset, water splitting from the hull as we lurch towards Greece. The shore disappears behind us, taking all my problems from the last two months with it. And, by the end of the trip, the last nine. For the next seven days, I do not think about work, I do not think about boys. There is no future, no past. Only a boat on the Aegean Sea filled with ever-tanning young people having a shamelessly good time. Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! We cheered this on countless occasions, a bunch of blissed-out kids from New York and Los Angeles.
The sun bleaches, the booze numbs. Everyone who’s ever taken a vacation knows that. But there’s something particular about being on a boat, about waking up at some indecent hour midday and jumping straight into the ocean, sitting in covered shade and eating scoops of yogurt and imprecisely cut peaches. The Zen of choicelessness, that’s what my friend calls it. Happily, I abandon a reality I had built back in New York that was dragging me down heavier than the weight of gravity, anchoring my moods, sinking my heart. Each day here—every dive off the plank, every tzatziki-leaking gyro eaten at 4 a.m., every bleary-eyed sunset watched from the back of the boat—severed ties with a more recent and miserable history. I feel the rope fray, each string and sinew pulling apart from one another until the connection is lost.
Perspective. That’s what this trip has afforded me. A vacation to distance myself enough to realize that problems are only problems when you continue to service them, to exist in them, live and breathe them even when they feel like they are killing you. Troubles are like yeast that you choose to feed, throwing spoonfuls of sugar into the mess in the hopes that things might change if you are involved long enough. But the only way to get rid of troubles is to leave them behind, let them die in your absence. And so I take all of mine and lay them on the bow, where they dry out in the sun and disappear on a Mediterranean breeze.