Continuing our series from last week, we dive further into the concepts of "islands," "shipyards," and how they relate to our realities and opportunities.
Welcome to the island. A small dot of green in the vast expanse of the ocean blue, outlined by beautiful white beaches and filled with luscious tropical jungles and rainforest mountains. There is a small town on the eastern shore of the island, filled with residential areas, shopping centers, and restaurants. While the inhabitants of the island live throughout the area, the majority of the population dwell in this town center. This is where we begin our story.
Most of the inhabitants of the island spend their time working various jobs, socializing within their community of friends and family, and relaxing on the beach. Well that doesn’t sound bad at all! On the southern end of the beach lies two long piers sticking out into the ocean. These are affectionately called the “Docks of Dreams”.
For those residents who wish to get off the island to sail to a new one, or to another part of the world altogether, they wait near the Docks of Dreams for a passing ship to pull in and take them away. The tricky thing about it, however, is that no one ever knows the schedule of passing ships, so they have to continually be in a position of readiness. Only when one is seen on the horizon will they have an idea on the timing and potential mooring of the vessel. However, those waiting also never know if the vessel is going to stop at all, let alone come close to the island. If a passing ship pulls in, those ready on the docks board and set sail for a new life. If a passing ship comes close enough, yet does not pull in, some residents swim out to the passing vessel and climb aboard.
Those residents near the docks of dreams have lived this life for a long time. They either accept where they are and settle in, wait by the docks for a ship to come in, or swim out to a ship that is passing by. This is how things are done. This is how their grandparents and parents have lived their lives. Some of those wanting to leave the island make it off, yet a considerable amount of those longing for distant shores die waiting if they missed previous chances.
The island in analogous to the life that you and I currently live, or where we currently are right now. I want you to clearly imagine your current job, income, family, health, friends, social status, and so forth being represented on this island. Can you see it? Take a moment to establish that mental image in your mind, for we will continue to reference it for the remainder of our time together. Where do you think your house would be in the town center? See yourself doing the same job that you are currently doing, with your same family, same friends, etc.
All of us have been placed on this island. Ignoring everything that has happened in our lives up to this point, here we are. You didn’t choose the exact island that you’re currently on, as surely as you didn’t choose where you were born, when you were born, and to whom you were born. The fact of the matter is, here you are. Your upbringing, education level, job experience, relationships, and countless other choices and factors have led you and I to being located currently on this particular island. So here’s the million-dollar question: Do you like it here? Look around. Look at your house on this island. Look at your relationships. Look in your bank account, at your educational level, your current opportunities, and so on. Do you like what you see? If you are currently happy with where you are, then I heartily applaud you. You are on the right island.
However, if you find yourself longing for more, dreaming for better, and praying for opportunity, you’re probably one of the residents with their bags packed on the pier. The question is, however, when’s the last time a ship came by? Did it pull in? Did it sail close to shore? If you’re still on the dock then I’m assuming you either haven’t seen a boat yet, you missed the boat, or you were too afraid to get onboard or swim out to it. Do any of those scenarios sound familiar? If so, I can sense your desperation. You’ve watched others you know get off the island, and you’re starting to believe that you’re never going to get off. You’re starting to feel as if your ship will never come.
Continuing to wait for your ship is an option, but it is purely based on chance. Before we resolve to placing our fate in the hands of random passing ships, I want to take you a little-known spot on the backside of the island. Between the town center on the eastern shore of the island and the western shore lies a range of mountain ridges and jungles that the inhabitants typically steer clear of. Not many of their friends go to the other side of the island, so they don’t really know what over that way, nor care to find out. Just getting to the other side requires a significant amount of effort, so it remains somewhat of an uninteresting mystery. Additionally, a handful of residents each year venture over to the western side of the island, only to never return. This has added another layer of mystery that keeps the majority of the residents content with staying near the familiar town center and docks. “So where are we going, exactly?” you’re probably wondering, “and where have the others gone to?” That, my friend, is the beginning of our journey.
On the western shore of the island is a complex maze of docks, boat slips, and industrial areas. There is a large rail system for pulling boats onto the shore, a dry dock for lifting ships out of the water, and various support facilities for the designing, construction, and repair of boats and larger vessels. You see, on the western shore of the island lies the Shipyard of Promise. Look around. See the bustle of activity as naval architects, engineers, and laborers work around the clock to construct vessels of all shapes and sizes. Hear the sounds of cranes, hammers, and drills. Smell the acrid smoke of the welding torch mixed with the sweeter smell of diesel exhaust. But notice most of all the different types of boats and ships that you see cluttered around the shipyard. Small skiffs, sweeping sloops, magnificent clippers, sleek speedboats, gargantuan freighters, and the list goes on. However, what grabs your attention immediately are the faces of the builders. You know some of them!
Remember the residents from the eastern shore that vanished to the west? They didn’t disappear altogether, they came here! Friends, family members, and acquaintances that you had given up for dead, they were alive and well all along, building “Vessels of Opportunity”. Herein lies the secret of the Shipbuilders, and the overall secret of this book. The Shipbuilders were once residents of the eastern shore just like you. They swam in the lagoon, lived a quiet life in the Town Center, and even spent some time waiting of the Docks of Dreams. However, at one point or another they grew tired of waiting. The rumors and legends of the western shore whispered in their ears and teased their imaginations. What lay beyond the mountain ridge and the tropical rainforests? At last, either through sheer curiosity or desperation, they set out for answers.
Off to your left, wielding a large cutting tool, you notice an old acquaintance named John. Come to think of it you haven’t seen him for quite some time, and now you know why. You vaguely remember his house near the Town Center, his wife, and their small children. He had a fairly decent paying job, and he seemed well-liked by his peers. So what was he doing here? Sensing the question in your facial expression, he offers an explanation. “What do you think of her?” he asks, waving his hand towards a large, symmetrical skeleton of steel and aluminum. He was just beginning to mold several pliable sheets of aluminum around the frame to form the hull, or “skin” of the vessel. “I’ve been working on her for a few months now, and I think she’ll be ready in no time at all!” “Why is John building a boat?” you wonder. “I thought he seemed quite content on the island and within the City Center.” Again, John offers an unsolicited response. “I know there’s more for me than this island,” he said, “more for my family, more to discover, and more to offer.” Though not quite sure what he meant, John excuses himself as one the the shipyard’s naval architects approaches to go over updated plans. However, he calls over his shoulder with one last wave of his hand, “you should talk to a few of the others; there’s more here than you think.”
After walking around the slightly-dangerous industrial facility a bit longer, you notice a young woman in her late 20’s. You recognize her immediately; she usually waits on you at the local diner on Saturday mornings, bringing your coffee and scrambled eggs. But what was she doing here? “Hey Jennie!” you call out, a little louder than you wanted to. She looks up from her work, which is currently tightening some bolts on an outboard motor, and smiles. Again, your facial expressions and curiosity cannot be hidden, and Jennie offers a brief explanation. “I’ve been coming over here a few evenings a week, and sometimes on my days off.” She says. “My sister watches my son so I don’t have to pay a babysitter.” She pauses just for a moment, tightening the last bolt before wiping her brow. “I want better for him. I want more for us. I want him to know what it means to choose a life, not to have one placed upon him.” The boat she is working on, a 25-foot center console with a small cabin down below, is nearly complete. “It isn’t much,” she said, “but it will take us away from here, and to somewhere better.” With that, she smiled one last time, turned, and walked away towards the paint locker. A nice blue stripe down the side would be the perfect touch.
As you continue to tour the shipyard, you meet several other people, hearing story after story about hopes, dreams, and a restless desire for more. No one story is alike. The retired schoolteacher looking for a new life. The young couple attempting to be the first in their families to leave the island. The father and son attempting to leave a joint legacy. Each builder also comes with varying levels of skill and resources, and are readily assisted by a team of engineers and architects, happily providing the know-how for those willing to learn and put in the sweat equity.
So where does that leave you? Are you ready to go back to the Town Center, back to the beach, and back to the Docks of Dreams? Maybe your ship will come; maybe it won’t. Or are you ready to build your own boat, to learn from the shipbuilders, to sweat in the shipyard, and to finally escape this island? If so, it’s time to begin.
(This blog post is an original written work by William Fediw, and no part of it shall be copied or reproduced without permission)