You Didn't Miss the Boat. You are the Boat.
The other day, my dear friend and amazing writer Kelly Green sent me a Marco Polo. She said a smattering of things like “I’m just sitting here obsessing over my facial aging”, “my jowls are falling”, “I was googling what happens in a face lift, how much does it cost?” - and then a deeper sentiment emerged: “I feel like I’ve missed a boat of honoring the things I know about myself in the way I intended to while I was alive”. She went on to talk about how wants to try comedy but doesn’t and how she doesn’t push her writing as much she wants to.
This idea of “missing the boat” really stuck out to me. Missing the boat is a fear so many of us have, especially as we get older. Have we lost our youthful value? Do we have the will to keep trying? What if all that was meant for us is a thing of the past?
As my dear friend continued to elaborate, a thought jumped into my head ready to proclaim itself: “You didn’t miss the boat. YOU ARE THE BOAT.”
What is the boat?
The idiom of “missing the boat” has its origin from the 18th century of quite literally being late for a scheduled trip via boat. This turned into the saying we all know meaning missing out on an opportunity. And while, yes, there are so many opportunities out there, why don’t we consider ourselves an opportunity?
Bootstraps and hustle culture asks us to keep seeking and obtaining the best opportunities for us to feel successful. Whether that’s writing a book or climbing up the corporate ladder or starting your own business - we seek out opportunities that help us get there. And yes, external opportunities can facilitate our direction. BUT, we forget to remember that we guide it. We don’t want to miss the boat because we believe the boat holds our enoughness.
When you are the boat, you are the one who is guiding your life. You don’t seek out that enoughness, YOU ARE THAT ENOUGHNESS. Yes, you are subject to things outside your control like the weather, which can be likened to the effects of systemic oppression and inequity. Your boat might have some dents which can be likened to personal experiences and wounds. Other boats might cut off your route OR help you get somewhere faster. Your boat is unique because you are unique.
How is your boat uniquely you?
Think about the following:
What is your boat made from?
Who built your boat? Who contributed to its appearance and shape?
Where did it come from? What is the history of that place?
Where has your boat gone (metaphorically and physically)? What were/are the effects from these places?
What are your boat’s gifts?
Where is your boat in pain?
What brings your boat pleasure?
How does your boat deal with challenges?
This self-inquiry allows you to step outside of yourself to take a look at the beautiful imperfect boat YOU navigate. And your boat gets to do so much. It gets to ask for help. It gets to visit different places. It gets to rest. It gets to repair. It gets to be accountable.
Instead of wondering about missing the boat, what if we think about the pain we haven’t been allowing ourselves to feel? What about expressing your gifts? Basking in pleasure? Learning new ways to ground and navigate yourself? Accepting what you cannot change alone? Imagining the power of collective change?
Waves come upon us all. Again, this is out of our control. But we have choices in our boat, more than we might realize. We have tools ready for us to utilize, but sometimes we have to go to the depths of our boat to find them. It may have been scary down there because someone told us to stuff everything deep inside of us and to forget about it. So you might avoid it completely. But you can’t avoid yourself forever. The thing is, the more we grasp for and use these tools, the safer we will feel and the more we can empower ourselves with them. The more this empowers others as well. Because we are better together, not only in isolation.
The more we get to know ourselves, wounds and all, the more we learn what we need AND want. We see that the path we have taken has influenced others’ paths. Your boat has left a mark wherever it has gone.
When you continue to tend to your boat and allow it to raise its voice, you better understand which island to hop off and which to skip, which body of water to avoid because it will overwhelm you, and how to shift your sails or change speed when the wind wants to push you in a different direction.
This is intuition, inner knowing, authenticity - all of it.
The story of Nisha’s boat
The question I perpetually sought the answer to while growing up was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My dad was an engineer and loved being an engineer. My brother knew he wanted to be an engineer since before he was a teenager. And my mom, while she didn’t always actively work as one, was an artist. Her art resonated from what she wore, how she decorated our home, in her cooking, and more.
Then there was me. The confused one who couldn’t figure it out.
When I was going to college, I obsessed over the course catalog and major requirements thinking that this will be the answer to my burning question. Ironically, I chose two majors Cognitive Science and Communication Studies. So my interest in the way people thought, felt, and expressed themselves hasn’t really changed. But the question lingered, what will I actually do with these majors?
I tried consulting, recruiting, voiceover work, speech therapy, and librarianship. I was constantly trying to find the boat that felt good to me. After I chose librarianship as career 4.5 (I count voiceover work as half a career, maybe even less), I was like, okay, THIS IS IT - I meant that definitively and exhaustively.
And today, I write to you as a Feminist Healing Coach and Writer and Facilitator. But, most importantly, I write to you comfortably from the helm of my boat. I used to wonder if I should’ve chosen a different major, gotten my PhD, or started coaching earlier in life. My quest for my passion, my lifelong career, the answer to the question that plagued me was a quest for an imaginary boat.
When I gave notice at my job in June, I realized something. While I’ve had all these careers, the common thread was…me. Because I am the boat. On my voyage, my boat picked up a lot of skills and experiences and friends and not friends. But I always brought ME to whatever I decided to try out. And that’s what people remembered.
In my new venture, I no longer have (as much) anxiety about what I’m doing. I don’t fret about the perfect coaching niche or program or Instagram bio. I see everything as a creation and process that will ensure that I keep tending to my parts. And, even better, I know I will change and shift. I know my boat might look and feel a little (or a lot) different.
This is okay when you embrace and accept the beautiful boat you embody.
In the end…
You can go on thinking about everything you’ve missed out on. You can fantasize about being younger or more popular or skinnier. Or you can accept your vessel as is while remembering who and what told you that you couldn’t (ahem patriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy, ableism, and more). You can acknowledge the many conditions outside of your control. And with your acceptance, you can show the world who you really are and what your boat can do that no other can while ALSO caring for what’s around you. With your acceptance, you’ll create a better relationship with and show up for your surroundings with all of your imperfect, authentic goodness. And the more ALL OF US do this, we can collectively shift tides and weather patterns and the ecosystem. This will help us remember that when we live in our truth, remember what brought us here, and embody our values and collective care, we have the power to change the world.
I promise you - you didn’t miss the boat because you are the boat. How will you enjoy your ride today?