I wish I could say that everything had been going great at work the last few weeks, but it would not be true.

Pursuant to the entry I wrote last month, in which I remarked that everything was going peachy at work, it has become clear that I am not challenged enough by deck hand work, and although people have been coaching me in the engine room for an entire year now, no one is really confident enough in me yet to just throw me into the fire and let me take on the challenge of doing it all myself. As a result of my frustration, I’ve been losing motivation, distracting myself with my phone and generally pissing off my superiors. I knew what I was doing wrong yet it was so difficult to make a change. Recently I finally resolved to put the phone away and go phone-free on watch, something I haven’t done in a really long time.

I thought about what I used to do when I didn’t have an iPhone, and I realized: I used to write. I wrote every day, a stream of consciousness from my brain onto the page. It was always an amazing way to clear my mind, and I’ve started doing it again. We all need mental stimulation, but when we sit there with our noses stuck to our screens, staring at instagram or facebook – refresh, refresh, refresh – it entertains us but does not provide any real intellectual stimulation and we are left feeling anxious, craving more feedback but never attaining the gratification our brains need. Hand-writing has been shown to make connections in the brain that typing on a computer or a phone can’t. And seeing me writing in my notebook doesn’t put my coworkers on edge the way seeing me staring at my phone does.

Not to mention, this isn’t the first time having my phone on me has been a problem; when I was a deck hand at Foss, I had a captain on the Henry Foss who told me when he saw me taking photos on a deck barge that he would write me up and kick me off the boat if he saw my phone again. Yikes… it’s hard not to get a bit defensive at such a severe threat, but in spite of my occasional cocky attitude, I have realized that it’s time to exhibit a little humility and admit that messing with my phone on watch really does distract me more than I think it does. So I put it away, and after a few days, I wrote this:

“Keeping my phone in my room while I’m off watch has changed my life in 3 days. Suddenly I’m so much more aware of what is going on around me. I possess efficacy that I don’t recognize, and I feel like a different person. Suddenly I see that I have been getting buffeted by life for months, flopping passively as it tosses me around. Being faced with the opportunity to finally take control and move forward into a new phase feels like discovering strength I didn’t know I could have. It’s a little scary because having power and taking responsibility for that power can be stressful when you’ve been feeling powerless for months or even years. Stepping up and taking control is scary, but the reward is so much greater than the fear.

Amazing how putting away my phone can bring all of this about.”

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