Sailing: A Metaphor for Life

If I were to use a metaphor to describe life, then it would be the act of sailing. We all begin in a small boat with no sails or fancy equipment in the middle of the sea.

Empty rowboat in the middle of the ocean

Photo by Osman Rana

In the beginning, all we can do is drift. Drift, drift, drift. The waters and the wind move us about. There’s really not much we can do to control where we’re going. But as we collect materials that drift towards us, we’re able to build some tools.

The first tool we build might be a sail for our boat. Although the sail might not be professionally made, it does serve its intended purpose—which is to help us steer our boat.

White sails in front of clear skies

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Because all we can see is blue, we lack a sense of direction. Hence, we construct a telescope. With the telescope, we can peer through the looking glass and see things far away. Improvements can still be made though. Sometimes we identify things, sometimes we don’t. For instance, we might not be able to tell the difference between a floating log and a large fish swimming below the surface. But we’re still making improvements, right?

Metallic telescope looking over the blue sea

Photo by Drew Graham on Unsplash

As we collect more materials, we’re able to craft our next tool—the compass. With the compass, we have something to guide us now. Whether it’s dark or stormy, we use the compass to point us towards the direction we wish to go.

Golden compass on a hardwood table

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Given we’ve been crafting quite a bit, we level up our abilities and our tools. Our sails are thicker and easier to control. We’re able to maneuver our boat with greater precision and efficiency. Our telescope has higher magnification and the image is clearer. Our compass is more consistent in pointing towards true north.

All of a sudden, we see something in the distance. It’s green and brown. On closer inspection, it’s an island. Filled with excitement, we embark towards that direction. We reach it and discover something interesting. We bring it aboard our ship. This cycle of finding and navigating towards places repeat itself. Sometimes it’s an island, other times it’s a shipwreck. Although not every excursion is fruitful, it’s still an experience and because of that, we gain something from it.

Small island in the middle of the blue waters

Photo by Ivan Slade on Unsplash

And so, that is how we sail through life. We start off without a destination; but as time passes, we begin to form one. This happens because we have an innate capacity to learn, grow, and develop from our adventures. When we reach a destination, we get something out of it. Although destinations don’t guarantee a predictable outcome or reward, sometimes the journey itself is worth more than any tangible prize. As soon as we finish one journey, we begin another.

Small ship sailing in a starry background

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Success and failure are our teachers—they’re what makes a trip worthwhile. Sometimes, mistakes can lead us to even greater riches. If you don’t believe me, take a look at Christopher Columbus.

When we become captains of our own ship, we’re able to go wherever we want. Even though our destinations can change, our journey to discover who we are and our treasure is everlasting.

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