Shipbuilding & Life Building

At one point in time, I thought the ideal life would be working from home, without a commute, without having to deal with the idiosyncrasies of an office environment. I’ve worked from home now for nearly two years, and the only thing that I’ve seen change is my ability to keep a schedule.

Yes, I work my hours day to day, but my personal schedule is entirely motivated (or unmotivated, as it were) by whatever I feel like doing anymore. Last year, I got so lost from scheduling anything that I didn’t even plan a vacation - something I’ve done each year since I started working this job. I don’t know how to fix this. Maybe it’s medical. Maybe it’s personality. Whatever the cause, even if I diagnose it, I don’t know what to do.

A few days ago, while watching YouTube videos, I stumbled upon a young man’s channel who bought a boat for a buck, with the goal of restoring it. I watch people like this with no small degree of awe. This guy was going to take this 100-year-old boat - which was not only so rotten that the deck was dangerous to walk on, but also had been wrecked at one point - tear it down to its constituent parts, repair what needed to be repaired, restore and preserve what he could, and then put the stupid thing in the water and sail it back to his home in England.

He’s no amateur, either - he is a sailor, and has shipbuilding experience. Some of his videos focus on this in other aspects outside of the restoration project - for example, he crewed a yacht sailing from the east coast of the U.S. to the Caribbean, and flew back to England to work at a shipbuilding yard, all to earn some money to help pay for this restoration.

I look at these things and wonder how people carry them out. The only thing I can think of is that they are able to compartmentalize these projects into the smallest pieces necessary at the moment, and focus on completing that. It’s also necessary, though, to be able to absorb the entire project at once, to understand what each small task is.

I think part of what diminishes my motivation so much so often is that I am not capable of entirely ignoring the overall task even when I can divide it into smaller pieces. I can look at a project I’m doing for work, and see that it encompasses probably a few days worth of work. I’ll grab a small piece, put in a decent amount of work, and then, upon resting for a bit, take a step back and see that all that work consisted of only a small portion of this huge task laying out before me, and just need to get away from the desk for a bit. To forget about the whole enterprise. And that feeling of the huge project pressing down on me is the only one I can muster, instead of thinking, “Hey, you’ve already finished a bit of it.”

I think that’s also part of what confounds me about this guy’s restoration project. Honestly, it makes more sense to me to build a new boat, rather than restore one in such terrible condition. I see the rotten deck & beams, the tattered ribs and the cracking timbers of this old ship, and the fact that he’s not just starting from scratch, but starting ten steps behind scratch, and I wonder - what kind of motivation drives him? And why can’t I access that?

Of course, my questions don’t just stem from being frustrated with work, or other minor tasks. I look at these problems and they extend to my life. For 22 years, I went through the expected motions - grade school, high school, college. I fell into my current job and have just been treading water since. The first major change happened when I came out of the closet and needed to move. Now, almost 7 years on, I’m struggling to take the next step.

It’s really time to move out of this rental house. I’ve been here since 2012. I’m 36 now. I’m tired of living under a roof that is both shared with, and owned by, others, joined only by circumstance. Yeah, I may have to rent again if I move, but at least I could live on my own.

But I get scared. And I don’t take the step. And here we are.

After finding this guy’s channel, I got set on looking for a good sailing documentary, because sailing and the ocean are both things that have been amazing experiences when I’ve been able to partake. I found one - Maidentrip, which covers Laura Dekker’s effort to sail around the world solo. She was 14 when she set out, and completed it two years later. I really just wanted a movie to watch what it would be like to sail. Life at sea. Interesting ports. Tending a ship. All those details. Instead I found a documentary about a teenager who had her own ideas about life. Who didn’t just walk out her front door one day, but ran from it, and jumped off a cliff.

I’ve not had those kinds of moments often. And never so dramatic. Some were true successes. Others were good while they lasted, and their ending devastating. And the funny thing is, I’ve never had one that was an immediate, disastrous failure. So I’m not so sure what I’m afraid of. But when I start contemplating a move like this, I am afraid.

And so I end up back in my routines. My largely unscheduled, undriven, unmotivated routines that may as well be a tar pit for all I can tell anymore. What am I trying to do with myself? It’s a question I’ve struggled with for much longer than the past 2 years, but has never seemed harder to answer.

You can find Leo and his adventures in restoring the Tally Ho on YouTube here:

Sampson Boat Co.

You can find Maidentrip available to rent or buy on the streaming platform of your choice.