Sitting on the deck of my boat, journal in hand, I watch as the sun slowly descends along the horizon. The sound of the waves tapping the side of the boat and the muffled laughs of my neighbors playing cards on the dock blend into the background. I can see James, the 14-year-old from across the marina, running up and down to each and every boat boasting the tiniest fish he just caught with an excitement that could be matched by no other.
It’s in moments like these, as I sit watching, that I wonder when exactly it was that my child-like sense of adventure and wonder left me.
It must have been a gradual fade. One that slowly went unnoticed. Until one day I looked up, laughed, and caught myself saying, “that’s just a tiny fish.”
There are so many times in my life when I have these “tiny fish” moments. Where I fail to realize that what I am doing, and who I am, is good enough. Where the pressures of our society and fear of comparison permeate my mind. Where a child-like excitement, so beautifully exhibited through James, is hushed by the busyness of life and its inconveniences.
Well it’s time to switch my “tiny fish” mentality to a “tiny boat” mentality.
There are a few rules that come along with the “tiny boat” mentality. Rule #1: No shirt, no shoes, no problem. Just kidding…I still need my dock lease. So while I have definitely adopted the shoeless, laid-back lifestyle of the marina, the shirts are staying put. The real Rule #1 when it comes to the “tiny boat” mentality is not to sweat the small stuff. Let’s be honest, life on a boat produces enough sweat on its own, and no one wants those added pit stains.
I guess you could call me a perfectionist, as I do tend to obsess over the details in almost every situation. Even writing this blog is a practice in relinquishing some control on my part, being that I know it will never be exactly how I want it. (“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” -Michael Scott) But ever since I moved onto the boat, the beauty that surrounds imperfection, a beauty that too often goes unnoticed, has become much more evident to me.
It’s the way my neighbors are sometimes “too loud” while laughing at the grill that now brings a smile to my face, knowing how much fun they are having. It’s seeing the tiny leak in my forward hatch, and feeling the water drip on my arm in a big storm, that now reminds me how blessed I am to have shelter. It’s the way I can get frustrated in the Florida heat when I have to walk the long dock to get to my boat that now allows me the time to pass every neighbor and say hello, becoming even more grateful for my new community.
It’s all of these seemingly tiny inconveniences, where I often find the most beauty in my day. So I’m going to strive to not sweat the little things, and find something positive in each situation. Even if sometimes I have to look a little harder.
Rule #2 in the “tiny boat” mentality is that you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to. Gone are the days of fearing failure. Failure is the world’s best catalyst for change. I was constantly worried about what my failure would look like to others, and it kept me from finding the confidence to pursue what brings me joy for way too long. Now I’m taking time to slow down, recognizing what makes me happy, and taking the first steps towards achieving it.
Rule #3: Stop basing your success solely on end-results. Working at a school, I see this every day. Students focusing on the fact that they got a lower grade than they wanted on an assessment, instead of taking a step back and recognizing how far they have come and how much they have improved overall. Even as adults it is so easy to make our happiness black and white. You had a good day at work or you didn’t. You made the right parenting choice or you didn’t. The problem with that outlook on life, is that we don’t take the time to step back and see all of the little successes that are littered throughout our week.
I could be cheesy and say that life is about the journey, not the destination. And that you should celebrate every small success along the way. But really, in a world where we are often told to downplay our achievements, or that our achievements in and of themselves are not good enough, I think we would all be better off striving to be a little more like James. To find that inner, child-like excitement that comes along with even the small victories, the tiny fish.
Rule #4: Slow down. Way down.
We live in a world of constant motion and change. People walk quickly past each other on the street, heads buried in their technology, working their lives away. If there’s one thing I love the most about living at the marina, it’s that the pace of life is much slower. And while at first I thought it was due to the relaxing, laid-back environment (which definitely contributes), I have quickly come to realize that the leisurely, happy atmosphere is just a byproduct of those living here. It’s being surrounded by a group of people whose main focus in life is human connection and friendship, and this can be found anywhere!
My grandfather was the king of slowing down, and as I look back on my own childhood, some of my fondest memories were with him. We would sit for hours on his front porch, just him and I, as he told me stories and jokes. Sometimes we would just sit in silence and enjoy each other’s company as we looked out over the neighborhood. Fast-foward to now, as I sit writing this blog on the deck, I truly appreciate being reminded that often the best way to keep moving forward is to slow down.
“Take time and slow down. Invest yourself in what you do, whether it be working or playing, eating or praying. Notice and give attention and concentrate. For appreciation is the wellspring of joy and thanksgiving, and appreciation is the fruit of patient and attentive experience. If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing slowly.”
Changes in mindset and habit don’t come overnight. I’m conditioned to sweat the small things, to keep up in this fast-paced world, and to find perfection. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few weeks, it’s that I need to take time to rejoice in the “tiny fish” that God has given me, and always pursue those moments, and Him, with child-like wonder. At the end of the day, the happiest people are not those who accomplish the most, but those who experience the most. Never doubt who you are or Whose you are.
Much love and adventure,