Friday, January 31, 2020

Reminiscing and Moving Forward

A whole life in front of me...

There I was, laying in a hammock on the deck of a sailboat in the middle of the Caribbean. The Milky Way loomed overhead, clearly visible amongst an unfathomable amount of stars. The gentle swells of the ocean slowly began to lull me into a sleep and the only thing keeping me from dosing off was the occasional gust of wind. It was "only" day three of an excursion mooring off several of the British Virgin Islands scattered across the Lesser Antilles. My brother, Matt, rested in an adjacent hammock while Adam slept on seat cushions sprawled out on the main deck. In the main quarters below, were the Haider brothers from Austrian Outdoor Sports, Stephan Dombaj of the Fly Fishing Nation, and our gracious host Alexander Davidson. During the day, we hunted for bones, perm, and tarpon before reconvening in the evening to talk about our experiences and plan the next day's adventure. Occasionally, we found ourselves taking a dingy to the mainland for a quality meal, drinks, and camaraderie.  It was an epic trip during a summer spent in the sand, sun, and heat. I was living the life and was too young to fully comprehend the moment...

On one particular day, Stephan pulled me to the side of the sailboat to have a one on one conversation about life goals. He was quite frank, asking me about where I saw my fly fishing "career" and the next several years of my life. I didn't hesitate to explain how I wanted to travel the world, fly fish, and document my adventures. Nodding along in approval with a large grin on his face, he outlined his idea of the Fly Fishing Nation and where he wanted to take it. It was ambitious and perfectly suited for the rising tide of social media platforms emerging at the beginning of the decade. For me, the next part of the conversation was filled with a heavy dose of reality. I had a fixed job, almost six figures in student loan debt, and a Master's degree looming. A complete contradiction to the very idea of what Stephan had in mind. Honestly, I don't remember the rest of the conversation.  I stared off to the horizon internalizing a gut punch to my dreams. 

Over the next few years, a multitude of opportunities came my way, heavily discounted, but still "out of reach". At least that is what I told myself in those moments. I can look back on and regret not taking advantage of those destinations but that would have sacrificed more than just my bank account. Instead, I found myself continuing my education and solidifying my weekend warrior status along the Mid-Atlantic region with sporadic trips throughout North America on my summers off. Throughout, the student loan debt followed me around like a dark cloud dumping rain on any adventurous ideas and places I wanted to explore, hike, fish, and camp. A few years ago, I doubled down on attacking my student loans and in January of 2020, I paid them all off. It honestly feels like my adult life is about to begin, but that doesn't necessarily mean a family, house, and a stationary lifestyle. That will come in time. For now, I have a few items on my bucket list that need to be checked off. A few scratches that need to be itched and some disposable income to make it happen. Moving forward, I'm going to try and live like how I felt on that sailboat in the Caribbean. Swaying back in forth in that hammock with the stars overhead and not a care in the world except what fun I was going to have on the following day. 

No matter who you are, I think you can relate to that. 

No comments: