While I am away in Monterey at the Blue Ocean Film Festival, I thought I would post some thoughts that I wrote in response to a request from our Personal and Professional Development guru, Professor David Berg. He asked that each of the World Fellows jot down some reflections, on a subject of our choice. So far most of them have centered on that all important question: “Why am I here?”, which could mean here at Yale, or indeed here at all, in this life, on this Earth. So I have continued in a similar vein.
Reflections – Roz Savage
21st September 2012
STOP DRIFTING, START ROWING
Just over eight years ago I was drifting. I had decided what I didn’t want – I didn’t want to do a job I didn’t like to buy stuff I didn’t need. In fact, I had decided I didn’t need much stuff at all, and had sold just about everything at a car boot sale one day.
I might have got rid of all my possessions, but I had acquired something more valuable – a clearer sense of who I was and what I wanted out of life: adventure, challenge, a sense of purpose, a feeling that I was making a difference and leaving a worthwhile legacy, particularly in relation to improving the environmental legacy of our generation.
It was in August 2004, one day as I was driving in my camper van, that these notions collided in my head, the lightbulb went on, and I decided to row across oceans, using my adventures as a platform for my environmental message.
Eight years on, and the vision that came to me on that summer’s day has come true. I have rowed around most of the world, witnessing widespread environmental degradation en route, and also finding that the planet is not as big as we might think it is when we assume that we are not capable of fundamentally changing the way it functions. I have published two books, posted over a thousand blogs, and made countless presentations and speeches.
Now it is time for a new chapter, and a new vision, and this is my present challenge. The problem with having done something that I would once have thought impossible, is that now I actually deem most things possible, provided that you have enough determination, dedication, enthusiasm and sheer bloody-mindedness to see them through. So I’ve set the bar rather uncomfortably high for myself.
But I agree with the veteran British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes that “life is too short for second rate ambitions”, and so I want to find a challenge that will once again take me way outside my comfort zone, way out there above the treeline, way out into the ocean of the unknown.
I am trying to replicate that sense of gently purposeful drifting that I had in 2004 – a sense of openness and awareness, not deciding anything but just being open to whatever answers might emerge. I am allowing myself to be drawn towards the things that I enjoy and find satisfying, because if I know one thing for sure, it is that life is too short to spend most of it doing something I don’t enjoy. It just so happens that I enjoy doing things that I feel are worthwhile, and make a difference. Seeking the joy was my guiding principle during shopping period, and it will be my guiding principle when I decide what to do next.
I picture my time at Yale as being on a river, rather than an ocean. I think of my personal values as being my boat, that keeps me afloat on the river and keeps me safe through the rapids. As I drift along the river, I am observing what is happening on the banks – in the outside world, in the wider world of Yale, in the past and in the present. I’m also looking at what is happening in the main current of the river – with all my colleagues on the Yale World Fellows Program, and with the other people I am meeting here at Yale, and with the things I am learning. We’re all in the current together, and you don’t need me to tell you that it seems to be picking up speed. Fortunately I don’t think we’re heading for a waterfall – or not yet, anyway.
No, I think we’re heading for a delta, at the end of this semester, where the river will split into many different courses. Our journey together will end, and we will take our separate paths. Some of us might combine forces again, further downstream. I hope so.
I also hope that by then I will know which of those many courses to take. It might take some frantic last-minute paddling to get me into the right stream, but as in 2004, I hope I will know when the time is right to stop drifting, and start rowing.
[Featured photo: arriving in Tarawa]