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JUST DO IT!
In the spring of 1980, my parents, my siblings and I, were visiting some long-time friends of the family and my mom asked Peter, the oldest son of the family and my best friend, "Peter, what are you going to do after graduation from 10th grade?"
"I am starting as a marine engineer apprentice with A. P. Moeller in August" Peter replied, to which my mom said, "hey, you can do that too Lars".
She was right. I could do that too and since I had no better ideas myself, I thought it would be cool to move away from my parents, live with my best friend, and get an education as a Marine Engineer, whatever that was, all at the same time!
"Big Decision #1" was a reality. Within four short months, I had applied, been to a successful interview, been accepted, and moved out of my parent's house and into a very small room in a basement 250 kilometres away from home. My life as a teenager as I knew it was over. From now on I was on my own, almost.
When I decided to follow my friend and become a marine engineer apprentice, I really didn’t know much about what a marine engineer was, apart from “being an engineer on a ship”
However, one thing I knew for sure. As part of my training I would join a big container ship or a giant oil tanker, or maybe both, which would take me around the world to visit places in countries I’ve never even dreamt of going to and that was very exciting to a young man like me of course.
The next four and a half years were a great experience for me. Not only did I get an education as Marine Engineer and got to see parts of the world I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, but most importantly I also got a few new friendships which now, many years later proves to be for life.
These pictures are from an M/T Nele Maersk. When this vessel was built in 1979 it was among the largest tank ships carrying refined oil products.
MY FIRST JOB
After I finished my education in the fall of 1984 it didn't take long before my first employment was a reality. Since my training and education was an apprenticeship within A.P. Moeller, who operated the worlds biggest commercial fleet, Maersk Line, employment with them was a given.
After celebrating Christmas with my family, I joined Laust Maersk as 3rd. engineer in January 1985. Back then, this ship was almost new, so the five months I spent onboard wasn't much hard work so my very first job as an adult was certainly not very challenging. A lot of fun though. A great crew and since the vessel was sailing from the east coast of USA, through the Panama Canal, up the west coast to California before crossing the Pacific to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, I also got to visit very interesting places.
STARTING A FAMILY
During the summer of 1985, I also met the girl who later would become the mother of my children.
We met on Gudrun Maersk where she was working as a stewardess and after six months together on another ship, my third assignment as an engineer, we left the oceans behind, bought an apartment back in Denmark, and told our parents that a wedding and a baby was planned for 1987.
What started as a trivial question based on curiosity from my mother six years earlier, had taken me from being a 10th grader without a plan, to become a trained Marine Engineer, with a mortgage and a baby on its way.
Sometimes even the smallest things can have major consequences.
WELCOME TO THE RAT RACE
If you have kids yourself you probably know what I mean when I say that almost everything changes when you become a parent. I know that there are millions of websites about parenting so I will not spend much time on that topic because I am not really an expert in that area but I do know one thing, almost everything changes. I said it twice now, so you better believe it.
When my first son was born, I became an adult overnight. Expectations. Expectations. He was born at the end of the day on a Sunday in April. When I woke up in the morning on this particular day, I had a girlfriend but when I went to bed that night, I had a FAMILY. That is exactly how I felt and it really got me thinking.
Maybe you didn't feel like that, but to me, the whole feeling of belongingness, family, unity, and responsibility was very overwhelming. I was only 23 years old at the time and the journey from 10th grader to becoming a Marine Engineer, a real estate owner and now a parent went very fast. Not that I wasn't mature or ready to become a dad, but all the sudden I found myself in a role to which there was a lot to live up to. A lot of responsibility.
GOING WITH THE FLOW
At that time I didn't have a plan with my life as such. I had a job as a sales rep, and we made enough to survive. Did I like my job? No, not really, but we had to eat, right? I guess it's normal to "go with the flow" when you're that young, so back then it was only natural that I didn't ask myself the question, "what would I like to do for work?" or "what am I passionate about?" No, not once.
I remember that I had the feeling of being in control. How strange is that? We owned a small house as we couldn't afford anything decent, I had a job I didn't like, and I drove a car that was too old and, too worn, but I felt comfortable. My circumstances, modest as they were, didn't trick any drive in me to pursue higher goals.
However, the feeling of content didn't last. In 1988, about a year after my son was born, I knew that my present job wasn't it, whatever "it" was, and I started to look for something else.
In the middle of my hunt for a new job, a thought came into my head. "Hey, why don't I go back to being a Marine Engineer on a ship?" The price one has to pay for being an impulsive person is that sometimes the time span from idea to action isn't long enough to make wise decisions. I was about to find out that it can have serious consequences to make essential decisions on a whim.