We had just arrived in Portofino and the scenery was as magnificent as I imagined it to be. There were small yachts on the right-hand side as we came into the port and they gently swayed up and down as the swell rolled in. On the left there was a mountainside with a monastery on top of it. Colors of red, orange and blue caught my eye as I saw the apartments on the right come into focus. This was arguably the most breathtaking natural harbor in the world. We headed to where the bigger yachts were berthed and gently pulled in our yacht and secured it to the single bow line they gave us. I stressed about that because you need two of those in fact.
Carson McCullers wrote: “We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”
I sat on a high dune one day, overlooking Buffalo Bay near Knysna, South Africa. In the distance on the other side of the Bay I could see my little tent, and in front of it lay my surfski and mountain bike. I was still a bit shaken and pumped up, after having a humble surfski session earlier that morning with one of the world’s big giants. I woke up hearing a small boy shouting to his dad to “check out the whale” in front of the beautiful camping site I knew so well. “And look how close it is”, the boy said. After hearing those words, I got out of my sleeping bag, and without looking at the conditions outside I put on my gear. I stepped outside and saw a gray sky, but the sea was calm and inviting. The boy was right, in all my years of coming to the bay, I have never seen a whale so close to the point. I gulped down my tea and took a big bite out of the cake I had for desert the previous night. I had never gone out in search of a whale, I though to myself. I’m in for a treat.
It was during that twenty-minute paddle towards the whale and after on the dune, that I decided to go to France to go sail the Mediterranean. I realized then that I was homesick for places and experiences I have never known and that I needed to do something about it.
Back to Portofino (one year later.) After we gave the yacht a washdown and made it all shiny and beautiful I headed up to the monastery. I walked slowly because the steps were steep and it was a hot day but it was worth the climb. It always is. I thought back to the time in Buffalo bay when I reached the top of the dune. This time I saw a yacht, which had been my home for almost a year. I had done it, although I had done nothing to deserve such an overwhelmingly beautiful sight for my eyes, I was there- after many hard hours and days and months of trying to understand a dream.
I stood there and wondered about the next time I would decide to do something and why, when a thought or an idea grabs your attention, it is so hard to let go of it and at the same time so scary to hold on to it. Whether it is someone, something, future goals or some sense of belonging you experience when you think it- it is hard for a reason. It is hard because it is going to test you. It will ask you to sacrifice something. It will use change as the catalyst for opportunity, and many times- change is our biggest enemy, and requires us to be brave.
A Somali proverb states that a brave man is scared of a lion three times: ‘first when he sees the tracks; second when he hears the first roar; and third when they are face to face.’ Why would anyone go in search of a lion? This is exactly what happens when you have an idea worth pursuing. And we give up because we are scared, or things don’t work out, or we give up because we want things to be easy. The fact remains; the Somali warrior goes in search of a lion for a reason, just like you have your own reason for wanting to do something great to take pride in. You want to believe in something because it will help you win the battles in your life worth fighting for. This made me think about what it is that I need to take pride in to help me follow my vocation, because like Alexander the Great said: “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” It is within this context that we get to know the true power of being led by our own believe system.
Remember: “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us” – Marianne Williamson.