Once upon a time, a long time ago, a wise woman told me this: she said that fear is the first stage of courage.
I’m writing this now, all these years later, because once again I’m afraid. I have fear, now, sitting in my chest and in my belly. And so instead of waiting for it to go away (as it surely will) I’ve decided to dig in and get close to my fear.
Why do I have fear?
Well, simply because I’m about to move the boat somewhere new. It’s the same fear I’ve felt more than once since moving onto a boat. And every time it’s the fear of moving on to the next thing. The fear of not knowing what comes next.
This is despite the fact that moving has always been my default response to stress. Feeling fed up? Move. In a rut? Move. Not sure where my life is heading? Move. Bored of my social milieu? Move.
…it’s the fear of moving on to the next thing. The fear of not knowing what comes next.
When I was a kid, I used to respond to the pressing need for change by moving the furniture around in my bedroom. And when I was looking for a boat to buy, I was adamant that I didn’t want one with too much built-in furniture. I wanted to be able to move it around, after all. Sometimes at 2am.
And yet, I have to admit. When I was looking to buy my boat, I never actually thought about it as a vehicle. You know, as something that moved. I thought about living on a boat as something that happened chiefly in a stationary fashion. Moving the boat seemed like an optional extra. You know, something to do if and when I felt like it.
As things have turned out, in eight months I’ve been in two marinas, spent a month out of the marina in Bristol Harbour, and soon I’ll be off to a canalside mooring in the heart of rural Wiltshire. It’s a far cry from the continuous cruising that many boaters undertake – and which, for me, feels like the goal after next.
When I was looking to buy my boat, I never really thought about it as a vehicle.
I’ve had some people admire what they see as my bravery for coming to live on a boat, on my own, without having the first clue what I’m doing. Others might call it stupidity. But whatever you call it, it doesn’t feel brave.
Because I’m afraid.
And yes – I know I won’t stay afraid, and I know I’ll be able to do whatever it is I need to do next. I know I will, because I’ve done it before. In the end, things always turn out. And even when they don’t – well – worse things happen at sea, after all.
But that doesn’t stop me, right now, from feeling afraid. And – truth be known – I’m ashamed of being afraid.
But that doesn’t stop me, right now, from feeling afraid.
Which is why again and again I remind myself of the words the wise woman told me.
The first stage of courage is fear.