"An Out of Office Reply" - SOLO Storyteller Series

Around me is nothing but miles and miles of untamed wilderness. Yet here I sit with my laptop, my cell phone, a short list of personal belongings and roughly seventy other people. I’m currently halfway through my second summer as a Steward on a small cruise ship in Southeast Alaska.

The work is a little more "Dirty Jobs" than a dream job. It’s not lavish. The crew are on for four months straight; no weekends, no days off. We’re up with the sun and when daylight lingers all but two hours of the day, the phrase rings all too true.

I left my “real job” to come to Alaska the first time (a year ago). I was restless and broken-hearted, curious and a little burnt out on routine. In short: I was twenty-four.

After that first summer came to a close, I traded in my sea legs and returned home to Portland, Oregon. I reveled in the rare state of bliss that is the simultaneous abundance of time and funds. I lazed and enjoyed the winter season, traveled some and spent time with friends and family. I tend to perform better with a purpose, so it wasn’t long before I was ready and willing to get back to the grind.

Arguably, one of the overarching traits of the gradual transition into adulthood is self discovery. At this particular juncture I discovered that "eager" and "stubborn" go together a lot like oil and water. I was both of these when I delved into the job search and the combination made it difficult. I wanted a job, yes, but not any job. The positions I imagined myself perfect for slipped away, and I received more emails from "noreply" than I care to admit. I tossed around less than thrilling titles to tie me over while I continued to plot and scheme.

Forces in my life urged me to settle while others said "trudge on." I’ve settled countless times throughout my adult life - settled for the easy way up, shallow love, a quick fix - and I absolutely will again. There is a line between accepting and settling and it’s as faint as a laugh across the water.

As the story goes, I returned for another season in Alaska. I’ve set my sights on a less than conventional next step and, like all great hair-brained ideas, it’ll require a whole heap of time, money and Skype credit. 

These days, I’m regularly offered, “do it while you’re young,” as quick words of encouragement. And while I do believe that’s true, I don’t necessarily believe my time spent or my time left to spend has everything to do with it. We are intellectual beings with the keen ability to feel; we know passion, angst, the sting of rejection and the heart bursting happiness that comes with success.

So I say...

If your heart and your gut are begging you to go, GO.

Live in a van. Pick up surfing. Ask for the raise you know you deserve.

Call him. Be the first one in the office every morning and the last one out the door. Go enjoy a cold beer alone at the bar - without your cell phone.

Start somewhere. Take it slow. End the relationship that needs to end. Pop the question.

Donate your hair. Love fearlessly.

Do what you want to do.

Do what you need to do.

Listen to yourself. Listen to those that genuinely know you and respect you. Follow your own path, however pristinely paved or crooked it may be.

'Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who further it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures it and rides it, in grace and love and wit from peculiar station to peculiar station along life’s bittersweet route.'

-Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume


Angela A. Swain

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