Saturday, December 1, 2012

Baggage

A few months ago, I asked a good friend (we'll call him Coyote, mostly because it will amuse him) what was the difference between lessons learned and baggage. I was going through a bit of a relationship crisis, and feeling the weight of trying to make good choices instead of falling into the same old trap of bad decisions spawned from parts of myself I had yet to fully acknowledge and accept. Coyote responded, baggage weighs you down and lessons learned help you move forward.

And that's why I asked him...because I knew he'd have an excellent answer. Stated so simply, it made some basic sense.

So now I'm in the fits of realizing that I have some baggage left over from KISKA's drydock, and the trials and tribulations of being berthed in Waikiki, a couple of islands away from home, with extremely limited means by which my crew could affordable-y feed themselves, having to commute more than 30 miles each way out to Barbers Point which was an acceptable 45 minutes on the way to the drydock, but could take an exhausting two hours on the way back to the hotel through Waikiki traffic...and on and on and on about all the bad things from that five month period. I'm still mad that our situation was so poorly planned. And a little chagrined that I was so proud of myself for getting some solution (the crew ended up getting the subsistence allowance for about three months-worth of the drydock...and the HQ office responsible for the policy changed the policy specifically to disallow the use of the allowance in that manner in the future), instead of being a squeakier wheel, finding the right advocate and running a full court press for the full five months-worth I thought they deserved.

This past week was hard. I think it was really the first week in the office I carried my expected weight as the Body Shop Reviewer. Crazy complicated issues that if I get them right, the Service chugs along without major disruption; but if I get them wrong, bad, bad things are likelier to happen -- multi-hundred million dollar things or things that cause chaos in the workforce. The reason I say it was really the first week I carried my expected weight is that I knew enough about the issues that I couldn't play the stupid new Girl card and weasel out with a slack-ass half effort.

One of the issues was similar enough to my experience on KISKA that all those old feelings of anger, injustice, lack of a voice came bubbling up to nearly choke the sensibility out of me...or at least squeeze a few tears of frustration out of me (thank goodness I made it to the privacy of a stall in the women's head before they leaked out...I hate crying in front of bosses -- especially when it's the kind from being pissed off that I just can't control) and prod me to call my sister one evening on my way home and spew vitriol and resentment in the form of enough f-bombs to make the attack on Dresden look like a small-town fireworks show.

So it became clear to me I'm carrying some baggage about KISKA's drydock.

The questions I find I must ask myself are how do I set aside the weight of the baggage and open it up so I might find the lessons to be learned within? What are those lessons? The majority of the insights to be gained are likely to be highly personal...how I perceive myself, what I think are my strengths and weaknesses, how I define success and failure, how I want to be perceived by others. Did I use getting the crew monetary compensation for their meals as a substitute to cover for my leadership shortcomings? Or were my motivations more in line with how I originally spun them..."It's my job to make sure they've got what they need to do theirs." Yeah -- don't know I'll be able to come to resolution on that one anytime soon. But at least I've defined the scope of the question.

And as much as I don't like admitting to such pettiness, I find I am not yet willing to let go of my resentment that nearly five months of my time assigned to KISKA was spent in a cold-iron maintenance status with no chance of cruising the great blue sea around the islands under the countless stars, dodging whales, ducking into lees to hide from the incessant trade wind chop, finally sailing into Hilo Bay past Coconut Island to our cozy little finger pier in Radio Bay and tripping merrily home to my Big Island bungalow. After taking difficult assignments (somewhat unwillingly in the case of orders to HAMILTON) and turning them into relative successes, I felt like I worked hard to get it and earned my time on KISKA -- the boat I had dreamed of being assigned to ever since I learned there was a patrol boat on the Big Island, eight years prior.

Did I really make the most of my time onboard? Wring every last bit of enjoyment and satisfaction to be had out of those short fourteen months? Or do I feel like I let some of it slip through my fingers? I will never be in that place, in that time, with those people again. I have some minor regrets about a few of the details, but the truth remains that my time on KISKA was my favorite tour (so far, anyway :) I have high hopes for my next tours afloat). I had an excellent crew, some difficult conditions, leadership challenges to keep me on my toes, and an amazing op area. I did the best I could based on what I knew at the time. I can't go back and do any of it over, so I better make damn sure I get it as close to right as I possibly can the first time.