In a confusing and challenging world, being on the sea brings me peace and tranquility no matter what i’m doing.
Growing up on the shore of Lake Erie, I have spent a great deal of time on the beach and in the coastal waters. I have found that being on the sea, no matter what I am doing provides me a sense of peace and and allows me to free myself from everything that is going on in my life. I can be out on my boat racing, just tooling around or simply playing in the water and the pressures of life, the “real world” and everything that is going on simply wash away and I can easily decompress and find clarity and a sense of ease.
When I was little, my Dad used to bring me along on his keelboat to “help him” as he raced around the marks in our weekly club races at Cleveland Yachting Club. I was mostly resigned to the cockpit or inside the cabin while they were racing, but I found that no matter what confusion and loudness was happening on the boat, I just felt happy and enjoyed slugging through the water and rocking side to side as we sailed around the buoys a couple miles off of the mouth of the Rocky River. At the age of 8, I started sailing at the club’s sail camp and I immediately took to the water and began enjoying the freedom of being on a boat by myself and having the ability to control my own destiny.
Being at the helm gave me a sense of being in control of my life and allowed me to see that every action I took, every decision I made had an immediate and undeniable reaction. I found that heading up into the wind and going into irons allowed me to stop the world and gave me time to think or just look around while nothing happened. Footing off a little gave me some speed and power and while it may not get me where I wanted to go quickly, the pressure was exciting and allowed me to lose focus of anything else that was going on in the world and just focus on the breeze that God provided me and the challenge of driving my boat with the pressure in the mainsheet and on the tiller!
From that point, I realized that being on the sea was where I was supposed to be. I was in control of my destiny and no matter what was going on in my life, I was in complete control of what was going to happen to me and where I was going. Sure I had to deal with shifting breeze and currents and waves and other boats and coaches yelling, but none of that mattered. I was on the sea and nothing bothered me. I was in control and I loved the feeling of being able to sail away from worries, stress and the pressures of childhood.
While I was on the water, there were no bullies, there was no parents, no cleaning my room or putting my toys away. I was on the sea sailing and the only thing that mattered was me, my boat and where I wanted to go at the moment. I found that being on the beach, watching the waves crash ashore, or seeing the fish swimming in the water or even watching boats sailing along or people skiing or tubing on flat waters gave me the same sense of peace. I knew that the water was my home, the waves were my music and the wind provided me the energy to accomplish anything I wanted to do.
Today I am sailing at an elite level, working towards winning the right to represent my country at the Olympic Games in Rio. There is a ton of pressure constantly. Who am I sailing with, are we the right mix of strength, weight, knowledge and do we have the communication between us to get the job done? Where am I practicing, when are we going to be on the water. Who am I training with and what do we need to perfect right now to move us to the next level? Where do I have to travel and how am I going to pay for all of this? This is all a lot of pressure for anyone and as a teenage athlete, it is extremely difficult to deal with from time to time. But when I get on the sea to practice or race, all that pressure slips out of my head and into the water and I am just out there enjoying the moment and capturing the energy I need to move forward into the next decision when I am back ashore.
Sailing at this level is exciting. The friendships I have made are like no other in life. Sailors are a unique group of athletes. We train together, laugh with each other and brutally compete against one another all in the same day. I know that the life I am living is a huge privilege and I am experiencing a life that few people will ever get to encounter in their live. I am lucky to be able to do what I do at such a young age and I now that the lessons I learn will help me in every aspect of my life. School, career, friendships, lovers and family will all be enhanced by my exposure to this lifestyle. No matter what happens in my life. No matter what happens in my campaign for Rio or my next campaign for Tokyo, I will be a better, stronger and smarter person for living through this and learning everything about life, friendship, hard work and focus. All of this is made possible because of the thrill that I get while I am on the sea and the fact that when I look out at the waters of the world I know that no matter what happens in life, I will be at peach and have energy each time I venture out onto the sea and enjoy the greatest gift that God has provided us here on Earth.
If you are not on the water today, look at photos or walk down to the nearest beach and feel the peace and tranquility that come when you get on the sea. I know it provides powerful experiences for me just thinking about it!