In an episode from “Furled Sails- The World’s First Sailing Podcast,” Noel Davis, one of the show’s hosts, mentioned a quote about how sailors go sailing not just to sail, but to tell stories about sailing. The world has no lack of sailing stories, and I suppose this makes sense given that once a sailor, (especially a single-handed sailor), is on the water, with sails set to a far-off destination, eventually he or she will turn to writing to pass the time. The most famous of these stories, particularly those by Joshua Slocum, Sir Francis Chichester, Bernard Moitessier, Robin Lee Graham, Webb Chiles, Tania Aebi, and Laura Dekker attract me because they describe a life so foreign to my own, yet somehow their philosophies and practices resonate with my own life. These are stories of people who are self-reliant, adventurous, open-minded, and dissatisfied with the status quo. In many ways, these are the exact qualities I look for when I meet and play with a musician for the first time. From a musical perspective, however, there is no way for someone to teach you enough about music for you to be successful. All the theory in the world will amount to very little when you step onto the stage unless you’ve spent your own diligent hours perfecting how to apply that theory to the shared repertoire of the musicians you play with.
That being said, it is very difficult to be totally self-reliant. Of course there are people in the world who try, and some are good at being solely dependent on themselves, but ultimately, isn’t that kind of a lonely way to live? It’s ok to rely on people for things sometimes. There’s no doubt that I have in my life too. For an aspiring jazz musician, the most obvious form of musical reliance comes in the form of your teachers and mentors from whom you are seeking knowledge. There have been several in my life, and I trusted that if I made a mistake here or there, they’d let me know. Sometimes their criticisms stung, but those criticisms shaped how I play, write, teach, and live today. I still have mentors, but increasingly over the past few years, I feel like there has been a subtle shift, and I’m often put in a mentoring position. It’s been wonderful, but does that mean I have to be more self-reliant now?
There are things I feel self-reliant about, including my first single-handed sailing excursion the other day. However, I am certainly not self-reliant when it comes to being a parent. Even as I write this right now, someone is watching my daughter. How could I be considered self-reliant? Frankly, it’s impossible to be self-reliant as a parent, yet still be a person with career goals and life interests. That’s ok with me, though, because I mostly really like the people I’m reliant on! As the school year approaches and my wife begins the process of her work commute, it’s becoming more and more apparent how many people I depend on in my life. So for whoever reads this, THANK YOU!!!!!
So my mantra for today is: self-reliance leads you to a greater sense of accomplishment, complexity, self-worth, and fun, but appreciate the people who you are meaningful in your life and help out!
And thank you to all the sailors who go sailing, for the sailing part, but especially for your inspiring stories!