Part 21: A Day at Sea

A couple of weeks before embarking on my cruise, I bought an address book. It was black and white with a beautiful paisley pattern made of black velvet. I had been thinking about getting an address book for a while.

In the early morning hours of October 31st, I woke up extra early to make sure everything was in order before I left for my cruise. I made my bed, hung up all my clothes, and organized the random things laying around in my room. As I gathered my bags and luggage to leave for the airport, I glanced at the address book I purposely left on my desk. Inside were the names and phone numbers of my closest friends at the time. If anything was to happen to me, I hoped that my parents would be able to make use of my address book and inform my friends.

When I left the house for the airport that morning, I wasn’t sure that I would be back. I had been thinking about it for some time – jumping off the ship in the middle of the ocean. While 2006 was a good year for me, having raised my grades from near failing to A’s and a new job that allowed me to meet interesting and inspiring people, 2007 was not a good year. I remember working a lot, stressing a lot, and crying a lot. What ultimately triggered my suicidal thoughts again was a short re-run with my ex that ended abruptly at the beginning of that summer. It left me confused, distraught, and in a complete mess. He was always my second addiction (read Part 7: My Second Addiction), and it was this addiction that often made me feel like I was never going to get better.

In the five years that we had broken up, I never stopped thinking of the day that we’d get back together. We almost did, once, in 2005. And we actually did, even if it was very brief, in 2007. I remember feeling very happy when he came back into my life, but every time we broke up he would disappear completely, and I would feel more devastated than I did before. His words never quite added up with his actions, which always left me with a lot of unanswered questions. That tortured me, consumed me, and I just couldn’t get over it. I understand now that my attachment to him stemmed from my depression, but I didn’t have the capacity to understand it at the time, and the negative emotions I experienced because of him only made my depression worse.

When I felt that I was never going to get over my ex and the damage done to my family was never going to be repaired, I thought the only thing left for me to do was kill myself. If I could die, everything would be over. There would be no more crying, no more sleepless nights, no more pain. I would never have to pretend to be happy again. It had always been my dream to go on a cruise, so I thought if I was going to die then I would at least fulfill my dream doing it. The cruise was suppose to be the perfect end. I constantly visualized that day where I would stand on the deck of the huge ship, alone, with the sun beaming down on me and the wind blowing in my face. I would smile before letting go of my grip to the railing and jumping off the side of the ship, plunging into the cold, cold water of the ocean. I couldn’t visualize what would happen after that. I didn’t know how I would feel or what I would think. I just thought I would never have to be unhappy again.

The day finally came on November 1st, our first sea day. After breakfast, my friend Ashley* and I took a stroll around the promenade deck of the ship before settling into deck chairs. While Ashley took a nap, I wandered to a quiet area of the promenade deck. I leaned against the railing and looked down at the water. It was actually scary looking down. At deck 7, I was a lot higher up than I thought. The waves were rough, and I could tell the ship was moving very fast. Probably around 30 knots, close to its maximum speed. As I put my hands on the railing, I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy climbing over it. It would take a lot of strength. Then suddenly, I heard the ocean roar at me. I looked up. In front of me was a panoramic view of the ocean. It was as if time stood still for a moment; I watched the water glisten as the sun beamed down on it. I could feel its heat on my body. The roars of the ocean’s waves echoed into my ears like thunder. I closed my eyes and took in a deep breath of fresh air as the wind blew into my face. When I opened my eyes again, not only did I see the ocean in front of me, I felt it. I felt the vastness of the ocean, and that feeling was something I couldn’t have possibly visualized without ever experiencing it for myself. And when I did, I realized that what I was feeling was life.

I had heard a saying on a Chinese TV show once. “Broaden your vision and your heart will open.” I couldn’t fully understand the meaning of the saying until that very moment on the ship. I realized that every time I visualized that moment, I was only seeing a picture in my mind, and that picture had a very small frame. That was how I saw life. I only knew to look down, to jump into the water, to escape. I had become so narrow-minded because of all the problems in my life and all the emotions that came with them, I could only see the rough waves. When I finally lifted my head to see what was before me, I realized that the ocean is much, much bigger than I ever thought it was. It was so big that its presence completely embraced me. I felt it. Life, in its entirety, and it was beautiful.

Ten days after embarking on my cruise, I came home to the address book that sat patiently waiting for me on my desk. I put it away. It turned out to be a wonderful trip, just like how everyone expected it to be. What people didn’t know was that it changed me. It broadened my vision and opened my heart to the life I still had ahead of me. There was still so much life I hadn’t yet experienced, so much of the world I hadn’t yet seen. I took the strength that I would have needed to climb over that railing back home with me. I knew I’d need it in the future.

( * name has been changed )

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