This will be a long, wordy and quite a random entry so prepare yourself!!!
So I know that I have touched some on the time that was spent on the ship between Sea Olympics, Neptune Day, the Talent Show and numerous other programs, but unless you experience this community it is really hard to conceptualize. Having sailed before I thought I would be prepared for that environment and prepared to leave it but this was quite far from the truth.
The time between Brazil and home was filled with a whirlwind of emotions and took it’s tole on everyone. When we got back on the ship after Brazil we had a lot of students who were sick from being in the Amazon, some still recovering from being robbed in Salvador and most coming to the realization that our next port of call would be home. I would say that though there may have been some negative undertones this last week on the ship was a great example of the community that we had built. During this time we had final Sea Socials, the Alumni Ball, a Commencement Ceremony, a Day of Reflection and yes by the way the students had to take finals and hand in final papers. In case anyone may have forgotten the students were actually taking classes while we were at sea.
I will start with the Sea Social that I had for my sea. I had decided that I wanted to say some sort of parting words of inspiration but I also knew that if I were to do this without getting emotional I needed to write something down. Well that turned into a reflection on my experience on the ship which I wrote out and when I shared I did turn into a bumbling idiot and could not get past the first line without crying I believe there are some videos floating out there).
Here I am with a group of students from my sea:
There was more to it and if you would like to read the whole thing I can share it with you individually; it is not something I want to share fully in this public venue.
I also sent this reflection to other staff and faculty that had an impact on my experience as well as students who were not in my sea. The response was amazing and quite overwhelming to be honest. I knew the effect that others had on me but to hear the effect that I had on them was quite overwhelming, humbling and affirmed the reason why I do the work I do. Not to do a Talent Show or plan the Sea Olympics (which were both a lot of fun) but to connect with and help the development of our students. The moments I had on the ship that had to do with that; those moments that you can’t tally or really put into words that is why I do what I do and will continue to do this work.
When finals were finished we had something called the Alumni Ball which was an end of voyage dinner and dance. An excuse for people to eat a good dinner, dress fancy and dance past quiet hours! I think a great time was had by all and I know that I enjoyed myself.
On the last full day on the ship was the end of voyage convocation type program, though I was a little bit disappointed that our graduating seniors were not called up to the front of the Union, the professor who was chosen to speak, Mike Ellerbrock, a favorite of many on the ship, was inspiring, motivating and moving my criteria for any good closing speech!! Loren Crabtree, our Executive Dean, also spoke about our experience as being serendipitous and I had been looking for a word to describe how all of these amazing people were placed on this ship at this time, how all of the 'right' people were and serendipitous was the perfect word to describe our time together.
The day was filled with emotions as you can imagine. I had been encouraging people to say their goodbyes and share their final words with people they cared about before tomorrow came because that day would be a roller coaster ride. I tried to make sure I was also taking care of this and myself at the same time. I had many students who wanted me to write them a message in their journals and I felt this strong pressure to write some sort of motivating message, so I tried to write from the heart connecting with each individual who wanted this from me. I figured if they were asking then I had made some sort of impact on their experience. I know that I am making an impact but it is really hard for me to realize the maginitude of that impact. I do not do this work for the thank yous but they sure do help you continue when you sometimes question why. I received a handful of goodbye/thank you notes and emails from some students and some of my colleagues/friends. There are two letters that I received from two women that lived on my sea that I had made a strong connection with and it was not until I read their words did I truly understand that impact that I had made on the ship’s community. These were not women who I had helped through some sort of traumatic experience or helped them answer the mysteries of life but I was just there for them, I listened without judgment, gave advice without being pushy and we listened to music and laughed. I guess that was all they were really looking for. This is in no way me trying to toot my own horn but more reflect on my impact (besides at this point I may be the only person reading this) and the impact that the community had on me.
The students in this pic frequented 'my office' which was the space outside my cabin:
Here is Courtney the bearer of the music:
When I finally left the ship I was able to walk through customs answering the question “Do you have any food in your bags” with “I have some granola bars I started out with” and that was true. Thank goodness the bags were not checked!!! From there it was off to Starbuck’s with Midhun and Laura to decompress, drink some coffee (Oh how I missed Starbuck’s iced coffee) and make some phone calls. A few of us met up for one final meal of Mexican food (it was Cinco De Mayo) said our see you laters and then it was off to Boynton Beach, Fl to stay with my mom and grandma for a few days.
Final Thoughts (I promise):
The most beautiful sunsets I have ever experienced have been on a ship surrounded by infinite miles of ocean on all sides; watching the sun literally disappearing into the water. As I watched the sunsets on some of the final evenings I would think that I cannot believe I will never see such a beautiful sunset again. On the evening I was driving from Ft. Lauderdale to Boynton Beach leaving my new found friends and family to visit my mother and grandmother I saw a sunset that mirrored the ones I saw on the ship and then the tears fell. As I was driving and crying I suddenly became aware of the music on the radio…Knockin Heaven’s Door by Guns ‘N’ Roses and the clouds in front of the sunset looked like the heavens opened up and the sun rays were pouring out of the sky. It was a magical moment. Beautiful sunsets will not cease to exist because this particular journey has ended. There are so many more beautiful sunsets to experience… this was a sure sign that my journey had just begun.
Final sunsets from sea: