2.5 Years

So I’m officially an operator trainee (or captain trainee, or “mate”, as my company designates this position). I’ve done a week and a half (took four days out of my last hitch to enjoy Russian Easter, which, incidentally, Jake attended with me and survived – good job, babe!) as trainee and haven’t done much actual operating on jobs at all, but I’ve been learning our methods of log keeping, and driving “light” (going from place to place in between jobs) most of the time. The captains I came to work with had never worked with me before so they’re taking their time getting to know me and having me do basic stuff before throwing me into the chair for ship jobs, which is fine.

I just marvel at how crazy the last couple years have been. There were days when I felt like I would be a deck hand for the rest of my life – the worst deck hand in history, at that. Some of the strife was a product of my own frustration, and some of it was produced by my interactions with others. Tugboat crews are notoriously dysfunctional, and whether you’re in the harbor or towing barges at sea, it’s always going to be a challenge to get along with people you live with on a 100-foot boat for a week at a time without a hiccup now and then. On that topic, I just finished listening to Brene Brown’s book “Dare To Lead” on Audible and I highly recommend it; it explained perfectly so many leadership traits and shortcomings I’ve seen in others as well as myself over the years, and gives the reader a huge arsenal of tools to deal with the “armored” behaviors we employ or encounter at work, and become a better leader – as well as partner, parent, and human in general. One of the greatest keys to more effective leadership and connection, I’ve found, is vulnerability, which is easy to say and difficult to practice.

But I also wanted to say how worth it it was to start here as a deck hand so I could finally work my way up to captain at the company I wanted to work for in the end. If I had stayed in Valdez until summer 2018 when the contract was up, I would have spent 2 years going nowhere and would still have had to consider starting as a deck hand. But I don’t have to think about that now, because I made the sacrifice and did the time. I look around and I can’t even believe where I am. Sometimes I’m so happy it feels uncomfortable.

I posted some photos from the last couple years to my instagram with a caption that came to me shortly after I was told I was being promoted, because I want people to understand that there is no short cut to that dream job, and the longer they delay the move because they don’t want to leave a “secure” job only to launch into the unknown, the longer they wait to start the path they will inevitably have to take to get to their ultimate destination:

Talking to a lot of friends (and maybe you could even call them mentees) lately who are afraid of taking a step backward in the short run in order to end up where they want to be in the long run. Looking around me, 2.5 years as a deck hand was well worth it, every great and awful moment, worth it. Don’t wait, stop waiting, GO NOW. You’ll live your life in the meantime either way, and the money is not as much of an issue as you think it will be. Yeah you’ll be broke, so what? A career is not made without sacrifice. And if you’re afraid you won’t be able to handle it, you will. Just go find out.


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