Boats and a fear of success
by Matt Marshall on 2017-08-18 | License Permalink
So, I bought a boat.
It’s something that I always said I would do. I say I’m going to do a lot of things, but usually saying them gives me that little boost of dopamine as I fantasise about it, or get a social reaction, that proves just strong enough that I’m not motivated to do the thing anymore. This has been true for a whole variety of things in my life – learning a variety of skills, starting particular habits, etc.
I think the dopamine is only part of it. I often find it very difficult to start something, and it’s true of my PhD as well as personal goals. I leave emails unread for up to a day when they’ve got feedback or tasks attached to them. I don’t ring the bank to sort out my two-factor auth when I really need to cancel a standing order. I think part of it is the fear of success. I know fine well that I have a whole bunch of tasks ahead of me that need working on, and I know that if I did them, they would be completed (at least initially). I think part of me fears what comes after, when I’m completed my todo list and there’s no longer a bullet pointed list directing my actions. I’m not sure where this comes from (probably the UK school system…), but I fear success because I fear that I’ll be empty without any larger goal driving me every day. If I keep something on the todo list for tomorrow, it means that tomorrow has purpose. If I keep saying I’ll buy a boat, I’ll have a goal.
But I bought the boat. So what now? I’m in the process of having it moved here from its current situation. I delayed on that party because I was scared of the impact of my finances, but also partly because then I’d have it – and I’d have to live up to the promise I made myself to do the thing I keep saying I’m going to do.
I keep saying that my goal is to take the boat across Europe and sail to somewhere off the coast of Spain, Italy, or Greece. It’s warm there and the sea is calmer, so I can spend my days relaxing. I also say that I will work remotely, getting one of those jobs listed on the Digital Nomad site. I keep saying this because I love the image, and I know in my heart of hearts that I would love it if I managed it.
I take a step back, and look at my situation: I’m pretty ok financially, except for student debt. This boat malarky has cost me half my savings this year so I’m as comfortable in the idea I can get a mortgage after my PhD. Fuck me that smacks of privilege. Other than that, there’s nothing genuinely holding me back. I’ve began a journey towards a lifestyle where all of my personal effects have purpose to me, and so are not numerous. I’m not tied down to a property. I have the skills necessary to work remotely. I have a relationship with someone who knows I’m going to be leaving on travels at some point. I can actually do this, and I’m scared that I probably will.
I’m scared that I will sail across the Mediterranean, and have the adventure of a lifetime. I’m afraid that I’ll spend a few years living aboard a boat (or series of boats), and grow and nurture some side of me that I didn’t know was there. I’m scared that I’ll complete the task I’ve set before me because when that’s complete… what next? I know I’ll receive another Call to Adventure at some point, but that’s invisible to me; grounded in the circumstances of a future that remains in flux. Every day it shifts. I’m scared what it’ll mean when I do it because I’ll have done it, and I’ll sit thinking about all the things I didn’t do when I could have.
I guess the only thing to do, is to do the thing. More boat updates coming soon.