Beginnings… the word itself has so many meanings. The start of a day, the start of a new job, the start of a new adventure… the very definition implies endless possibilities. In the absence of any clear direction, one might stumble to know where to begin. The word leaves a lot to interpretation. “To begin”, as defined by the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary is “to start doing something; to do the first part of something” which can mean many things to many people in many situations. With the 2021 season now underway, its time for our own reflection on what “beginnings” mean and as always, it’s easiest to break down a definition to its very core and then build out from there.
The essence of beginnings lies in those first few early steps, regardless of their application and situation, one might make as one explores and expands their own boundaries. For our own members, this event will occur in multiple occasions and in a variety of scenarios. These situational “beginnings” can, in turn, range from comfort / controlled situations up to, and including, those more intense / pressurized scenarios often experienced during a tasking. Thinking back to one’s own personal experiences these events might include a variety of situations:
- 1st patrol as a new crew member
- 1st patrol of a new season
- 1st tasking while on patrol
- 1st tasking if on an emergency call out
- 1st patrol in a command role, either second in command or coxswain
- 1st tasking in a second in command or coxswain role
All of these moments invoke a sense of “beginning” and the emotions that result are often real and raw. Its only natural, not matter who you are and how much experience to feel a rollercoaster of emotions in those moments. And, lets be honest, without that sense of “the moment”, one might question if one truly understands the implications of unfolding events and their role within.
So why, one might ask, would we approach our 2021 season of blogs with something that, at first blush, seem detached from the day to day SAR role we play. Its quite simple as the concept of beginnings is not as unrelated as one might think. In an environment with clear delineations (pre-season prep, on patrol, post season shut down) tied to seasonal conditions, the impact of “beginnings” will have unintended consequences. Influences perhaps not as obvious to those who find themselves in different more modest climates. For them, participation is yearly and often without that familiar “off season”. An absence of an offseason means no formal or forced environmental off switch. For others, those who find themselves in harsher climates, the seasonal off switch is both clear and obvious. These cycles are dictated by the weather and other climatic conditions. The impact can, however, go well beyond a simple mechanical shut down. The real impact is perhaps the one experienced by those who crew in these conditions. One might think about our vessel during the long winter nights, but this is, in reality, far removed from the day to day physical and mental preparation of bouncy conditions heading out into a stormy sea. Its inevitable then that there is a mental fog that settles in during those long January and February nights. It happens to members both young and old. Our challenge is to successfully balance both states of mind and harness the ability to easily switch between them; the “on and the “off” are equally challenging and each brings a unique complexity.
During the boating season one is focused and fully engaged. Ready and willing to go at a moment’s notice. And then the temperature’s drop, the leaves fall and suddenly the seasons change. Its our off season and a new reality sets in. Our vessel is “on the hard” and really its no different from what we individually experience. In a way our crews suffer the same fate; we too are “on the hard”. Its at this time when the mental “rust” slips in, our memory stumbles and those simple tasks seem distant and vague. Of course, those seemingly buried routine processes come back, they always do. The real challenge is to find a way to balance oneself during those two change overs. To learn to “jump start” into pre-season or “power down” as part of preparation for the off-season. Its not easy and each year it can be different but its always about finding the sweet spot when one can ease into and out of the seasons with as little psychological disruption as possible.
And how, you might be asking does this all of this tie together to tonight, 2021 and the season ahead? Well today we visited the vessel to introduce one of our rookie crew members to their new “home away from home” aboard PARU. As part of this visit, we also include a couple of our more seasoned members, two who had not been on board, due to Covid-19 for over a year. We took this picture as they all examined and discussed our new electronics.
Looking back at the picture, it seems, at least to us, to capture in a simple moment the passion, collaboration and anticipation of rookie and veteran alike and well it got us thinking about beginnings. Those very first steps on board for our new member and those first “seasonal” steps for our veterans. As we sat later discussing the past, present and the year ahead, it reminded us that these first few moments are not just important to our newest faces, no, they are equally important to our “experienced” crew members. They joined in tonight equally excited about what lies ahead and also “nervously” experiencing their own personal restart or “beginning”. For them its with the knowledge that when we do leave dock, their responsibility is only heightened, the pressure increased. The past year of Covid-19 has only made this challenge more difficult as for some its now been over two years since they have stepped on board and despite our rigorous virtual and online training sessions, hands on experience is well frankly often the only true way to shake out those cobwebs.
Tonight, lets remember that a “beginning” no matter what it might ultimately represent, always begins with those first few steps…