ONCE A SAILOR - ALWAYS A SAILOR?
Do you remember where Part 1 of my story ended? Yes, correct. With the possibility to make another big decision. Should I go back to being a sailor or not?
However, having a job that didn't interest me, being patient as an ice cube on a hot summer day, and lacking the ability to remember the good as well as the bad times isn't a great combination.
Long story short. I called my previous employer, the shipowner, told them I was ready for another trip, packed my suitcase, kissed my son and newlywed wife goodbye, and left for what was planned to be a six-month shift. "Big Decision #2 - Part 1" was a reality. (Since this was the first of three important decisions I made within a few months, I will let them count as one. Anything else would be too dramatic.)
When I walked up the gangway to join Arthur Maersk somewhere in Europe on May 18, 1988, the only thought that came to mind was, "what was I thinking?" Not much apparently because I remember saying to myself, after only a few hours onboard the ship, "man, what have I done?" The fact was, I had signed up for a six months shift, but all I wanted was to go home again. I missed my one-year-old son and the thought of not seeing him for that long was unbearable.
I knew right there and then that I had to take action, so I went to see my boss, the chief engineer, and I told him as it was; I had made the wrong decision and I need to go home again. I kept it short so I didn't bother telling him that it was "Big Decision #2 - Part 2." He wouldn't know what that was about anyway. All he said was: "Oh...oh well" and accepted my resignation without much further conversation. Luckily for me, the engineer who I was supposed to replace was still onboard, so he was asked to stay another few days until a replacement could be mobilized. We never became friends though, him and I. I had not given him any reason to like me I guess.
I stayed onboard the ship for another 36 hours until we called the Port of Hamburg in Germany. Luckily we were relatively close to Denmark, so I could easily find my way back home. When you quit before your time is up, you have to pay your own ticket home so I was happy I didn't have to leave in Japan or somewhere else very far away.
BACK HOME AGAIN
To say that my wife was happy to see me when I all the sudden was back on the doorstep with my suitcase again would be an overstatement. Nope. She was concerned about our financial well-being because I wasn't entitled to receive any unemployment benefits for 5 or 6 weeks, and that was too big a gap for us to deal with. What to do now?
When I was looking for job opportunities before I made the wrong decision to head back to sea, I had also looked into going back to school and add a Mechanical Engineering degree to what I had already, but the financial implications were too big at the time, as we had a mortgage, a car loan, and other big expenses. Now, however, with zero money coming in, receiving "financial support for education" would be a step up, so why not?
"Big Decision #2 - Part 3" was coming up. Should we sell the house and the car, move into a cheap apartment, rely on our bicycles to get around, and let me start at the university to become a Mechanical Engineering as well?
Yes, of course, we should! Mechanical Engineer BSc. on a business card would look really cool so why not?
BACK TO SCHOOL
When I decided to apply for university, I had my eyes on the outlook to become a Mechanical Engineer, and no so much on the "why". I didn't ask myself if the jobs I could get with this specific degree would be of real interest to me, which I many years down the road realized would have been a wise thing to do.
After three years at university, I graduated with really good grades and it turned out that finding a new job wouldn't be a problem. In fact, I started as a Fleet Superintendent with a small shipowner company only 5 days after I got my diploma. No summer holiday for me that year.
Long story short. One job led to another, and the next ten years I had a handful of positions in as many companies, without finding what I was looking for, whatever that was. I still didn't know.
HIT THE ROAD, LARS
In 2001 I was so fed up with the lack of passion in my work, that I suggested to my then wife, that a long leave might help me find "my path". Luckily she agreed with me so we sold the house, took the kids out of school, and left for the US. We bought a 30' motorhome, drove it from North to South, East to West for a good 7 month while having a really wonderful time. However, the lazy days with fun came to an end and I hadn't gotten any closer to knowing what I really wanted to do for work.
When we came back to Denmark, we bought a house, I found a job in the area of mechanical engineering (yay) and just like that, I was back to where I left almost a year earlier; the rat race.
“The trouble with the rat race is even if you win, you’re still a rat.” - Lily Tomlin
Not being able to figure out where I would like my so-called career to lead, I once again went from job to job. Years went by like this and I still didn't know what I would love to do. Only what I didn't like to do but that wasn't helping much.
In the fall of 2004, I decided to look into starting a webshop. I could see myself working from home. Packing orders in the morning and playing golf in the afternoon. The internet was still kinda new back then and the competition was limited.
Maybe that would be something for me too?