April 27, 2023
The sea has been my life’s central line of consistency, a colorful ally in my stumble through day-to-day existence. From my lifelong hobby, scuba diving, to my first real job as a Navy A-6 Intruder aircraft carrier pilot, to where I choose to live in the present, the ocean’s influence on my life has been nothing short of prodigious.
Growing up in Greece, I basked in the revelation of the unknown, mesmerized by the ocean’s enigmatic obscurity. I spent hundreds of hours spearfishing, seesawing between the excitement of the hunt and the abject terror of that first kick beyond the visible bottom, fresh adolescent eyes waiting for a jaw-snapping creature to hurtle up from the darkness. This confluence of daring and a child’s baseless fear still drives me to that place today, fully engaged in the moment and experiencing life unfiltered.
While military flight training appealed to my adolescent mind, the notion of launching from a ship thousands of miles out to sea—with nowhere else to land—compelled me to join the Navy. Called blue water operations, or “ops,” the lack of choices in an emergency could terrify to incapacity or elicit the inspired audacity to snap to and embrace the worst-case scenario. The sea was my ham-fisted ally, ready to kill in a monstrous hug, a friend who, despite her unforgiving nature, would back me up as long as I gave the day everything I had and, if need be, more.
Only by traveling outside routine can an experience be meaningful. Without risk or suffering, life’s journey will inevitably fall short. Avoiding regret at the end of life requires authenticity, the courageous revocation of everything life offers in a split-second decision to do things the hard way, not for a different outcome but because this is where truth resides, lying naked, exposed at the razor’s edge of control.
Parkinson’s disease is undoubtedly the most positive development in my life. It challenges me with wild ferocity, never letting up, forcing me to respond from beyond my comfort zone daily. Approaching life with the same tenacious determination, not to beat the ailment, but to fight through pain’s distraction, is a harsh but accurate description of true freedom. I don’t know why we suffer, but I am confident that accepting the experience as neither good nor bad, but just as something that is, provides the space to revel in the esoteric freedom of unknowing.
The ocean is raw and unrefined, an intemperate partner to retain for life’s journey. There is no societal stigma or complex cultural etiquette on the seas. One is free to be. Listen to the waves break with your heart and feel your way to clarity. Go for it.
Born a Pisces, Poseidon has always been my god.