Every morning at six thirty somebody would wake us up and turn on the lights. The first morning it happened, from sleeps foggy haze, I couldn’t understand why somebody had turned the sun on.
I would then roll out of bed, trying to not step on the girl sleeping beneath me and trying not to bash my head against the back of the girl sleeping above me. I slept with my togs on as my base layer, it made peeing a bit difficult but put me at an extreme advantage in the morning.
I would hurriedly pull off the seven layers of merino I wore to keep warm, and stuff them into my sleeping bag. That way I could guarantee at least one dry change of clothing to slip into at the end of the day.
I would then hustle upstairs through the door directly in front of me, always nervous everyone would already be waiting for me. But no one ever was, and I’m proud to say that I maintained the title of the first trainee up on deck throughout the entire voyage.
I would pace the length of the ship, trying to soothe the shivering and ignore the ache in my feet from the cold deck. Eventually, everyone else slowly trickled onto the deck and joined me in my pacing.
The pacing became a daily ritual of mindfulness for me. When it was just me, pacing in the dark on a ship in the middle of the ocean, I could take a few moments just for myself. Just me and the sky and the sea. One of the biggest struggles on The Spirit for me was constantly being exposed to everyone. So, I relished those quiet dark moments before everyone else got up.
I've never been very good at mindfulness, getting distracted easily when trying to meditate. But because there was literally nothing else going on around me I found myself practicing my breathing and focusing my mind on the day ahead.
It helped that I was being motivated to find calmness by the fact I was on a ship in the middle of the ocean, with the constantly changing weather. Nearly forty other teenagers, with constantly changing moods and a day of activities that I knew I would be unskilled and unprepared for.
When everyone else was up on deck someone would gather us near the front of the ship and take us through a warm-up. We would jump and sprint and shake our hands and legs until at least some warmth came creeping back into our bones. Then we would line up for the jump.
I make it sound ominous because for me it was.
We would line up behind one and other, which is hard when nobody wants to be in front. Then when it came to our turn we would clamber onto the handrail that ran around the ship’s deck.
When you’re standing up there it’s as though everything seems to zoom in. You can feel the cold rail under your feet and you wonder if you’re going to fall back, but you know you won’t because you’re gripping the rope to your left so tightly you wonder if you’ll be able to let go.
Then you look down. You can see the cold, dark ocean lying only two meters below you. Is that a fish or a shark you can see moving? Of course, it’s a fish. The fear screws your stomach up into a ball and slides into your throat choking you.
Then you take a deep breath, close your eyes and jump.
The world seems to stand still for a few seconds because you did it, you jumped. Then the water hits you, and it’s not as bad as you expected but it is still cold and hurts your chest. The life vest propels you to the surface and you start swimming for the rope ladder.
Every single morning started like that for me. I don’t think it ever got less scary, but after a few mornings, I started to look forward to the rope ladder at the end of it.
Because as I was pulling myself out of the cold water that felt like it was clinging to my skin, I could say that I’d won.
Even if for the rest of the day, I did nothing spectacular, I could say that I had already faced my fears and won the fight because I had jumped.
Check out #spiritofnz here.
More coming soon, thanks for reading..!