When I was 15 years old, I thought I wanted to be an Oceanographer, a female version of Jacques Cousteau. Yes, I was a bit of a nerd. And yes, if you are a Seinfeld fan, you know that George Castanza (Marine Biologist) would be proud.
But a lot of things diverted me and with my natural penchant to go with the latest greatest thing, I entered the business world after receiving my bachelors degree. So instead of pursuing Biology, I rose to be a National Sales Manager with a Fortune 100 company and I was quite happy doing that. I was well-recognized and rewarded for my ongoing performance and life was good.
In retrospect, it actually might be a good thing that I took the business route. as I tend now, to be seasick on boats and get a little claustrophobic and very terrified when I am deep under the water. So given that wobbly health status, maybe that rise in the business world was a pretty good option. I was never seasick in the high-rise building or on the company jet, nor was I claustrophobic in the boardroom. Sometimes we make great choices without even realizing it.
But what happened to my oceanographer aspirations? Somehow they kept surfacing in the books I read, the documentaries that interested me and there remains a vague interest in the one that got away. But no – I am not returning to school to become an oceanographer but in wishing to quiet my wondering heart, I have decided to go on a conservation trip in Belize with the Oceanic Society where I will be on board one of their research boats, working alongside people who do the job that I had aspired to do. I will be tracking and classifying the Bottlenose Dolphins in their favorite places.
And given that it is winter where I live and summer where the dolphins hang out, there seems to be some serious side benefits. Accommodations, although not exotic, are on the beach and that sounds irresistible.
The job description on the Oceanic Society site reads :
“The research will focus on dolphin behavior in the context of specific habitats. As a research assistant, you will accompany the researcher to known dolphin “hot-spots” within the atoll. Our goal is to determine habitat use and our days are spent working in small teams, recording dolphin behavior on standard data sheets, plotting location, and identifying dolphins individually through natural markings.
At locations where dolphin sightings occur, the researcher with the assistance of those volunteers comfortable with snorkeling, will conduct underwater examinations of the habitat and record prey availability while boat-based team members collect environmental data. Opportunistically and at the discretion of the researcher, we will also attempt to observe the dolphins’ behavior underwater.
Manatees are found in our study site and opportunistically we will also collect data on their distribution. All research is conducted from small boats inside the atoll. You must know how to swim but no other skills are required to participate.”
I was so excited to find this. It is another wonderful benefit of retiring early so that you are capable of fulfilling your dreams however crazy they may be.
That brings us to the point of this post. After so many years of doing what we should do, our dreams are buried beneath our responsibilities and we lose track of what they were. I ran into an old friend and she was speaking of wanting to do something, now that she was an empty-nester, but she had no idea what she would like to do. And, like all of us, she was struggling to figure it out.
After a lifetime of defining ourselves in the context of others, we no longer know who we are when we are alone. We only know who we are relative to those that we live with and care for. And having a place in your family context is good. And these lifetime relationships are important.
But it does not override that need to see who we are when we are alone. To realize what dreams and aspirations we had and go after them now. It is not too late. Your second act is only just beginning when you hear this call. And it could be sweet and fulfilling once you start. Trying a lot of new things can help you to recognize the ones that make your heart sing and point you in the direction where your pathway awaits. Your second act. You don’t need to know what to do. You just need to try a few new things. It is self-propagating too, in that the first few choices open up new choices that you could not have foreseen.
Chasing dreams makes you feel like a kid again and dreaming makes you feel enthusiastic and hopeful for the future.
So start with one thing. And do one thing every day. You get bolder as you go along too. When you have fun with the little things, you move on to bigger and bolder things.
I no longer wish to be an oceanographer, but this trip will be an interesting opportunity to try something new and exciting. I actually no longer feel like I am seeking something but rather just enjoying the whole experience of trying the things that interest me. I continue to remain open to what is next. My second act. And I am trusting the process. And having a great time doing it.