To Abby the Sailor Girl,
Seriously, truly, with tons of respect, I think you're going to be a badass woman one day. But can you do yourself a favor and just hold your horses a little bit? Or, I guess I should say, drop anchor. Because if you keep taking these risks, I'm afraid you ain't gonna make it to adulthood.
I'm reading the AP interview you just gave, now that you're back home safe, on solid ground. "A lot of people are judging me by the standards they have for their teens," you say. "They don't understand ... I do know what I'm doing."
I'm sure you do. (And, um, while we're at it, I'm sure your parents do, too.) But how many other teenagers do you think have said those exact same words before? Hmm ... probably every single one! And that's without requiring coast guard assistance on the open ocean. I don't mean to sound condescending when I say this, but the most aggravating thing about teenagers -- being one, or being near one -- is that they think they know everything and can handle everything. Which is why, in most cases, they're given two parents each to ensure they don't do anything irrevocably stupid.
And so, as someone who's personally seen two little sisters through teenager-dom, I have to tell you: If you were my sister -- or my daughter for that matter -- I would have kicked your butt before I ever let you get in that boat.
I'd have done it immediately when you very first came up with this crazy idea of sailing away, all by yourself, on one of the most dangerous missions imaginable -- all for the sake of breaking some world record that shouldn't even exist. "Youngest person ever to circumnavigate the globe alone." Seriously? Am I the only person who hasn't watched enough Hollywood movies to be brainwashed? For sure, Dad the shipwright must have been. How else could he be convinced that his 16-year-old girl was a seasoned sailor just because she felt she was.
And this is not entirely hypothetical, because I do have little sisters. One of them even circumnavigated the globe at age 19. On a Semester at Sea ship. She learned things, met people, had amazing experiences, and I said "COOL!" even though she'll probably be paying off the student loans well into retirement. Because I could see that while there might be some risk there, the rewards far outweighed them.
However, putting yourself into a situation where every day your life will be in danger, and you won't able to sleep a whole eight hours through, and you'll probably be freezing most of the time, and oh, by the way, it's pretty much expected that you'll encounter 50-foot swells somewhere in the Indian Ocean because that's just what happens this time of year ...
Well, for WHAT? A "Today" show interview and a footnote in the Guinness Book? Sweetie, no.
Are you thinking straight? Are your parents? Because, as far as I'm concerned, those pushy stage mothers got nothin' on them.
After all, there's a big difference between honoring someone's dreams and encouraging your child down the path of foolhardy destruction. I want you to stay happy, healthy and whole of limb, not be reckless with the many gifts the universe has given you, or throw yourself directly in harm's way. This is what I want for all 16-year-old girls -- as should their caretakers.
Here's the thing: Burning ambition can kill at any age. The urge to be best, first, fastest -- it's a personality trait you'll need to learn to manage if you want to survive. As a teenager? You don't have it under control at all. What you have is unshakable and unfounded confidence that nothing bad can happen to you. It's these traits that cause teenagers to die every day from far more ordinary pursuits.
As you get older, Abby, hopefully you'll gain not just years, but wisdom. In your interview you said, "It's great that there was a boat that close by," to rescue you in the middle of 3-story Indian Ocean swells. Girl, it was a miracle
. And plenty of people risked their lives saving yours.
So, hopefully, if you embark on another mad mission next winter, pops will at least go along with you ... like Mr. Johnny Strange, who was hell-bent on summiting Everest at age 17. And did -- with his dad.
"I'm pretty sure I will one day sail around the world," you told us all today. And when the time is right, I'm sure you will. Believe me, when you're ready for it, I'd cheer you on. However, I also want you to be safe out there -- and find a record to break that won't break you first. So, as your honorary bossy big sister, let me just say ...
The ocean will wait, Abby. For now, get back to school. Need a ride? I'll drive you.
Lena Katz is the author of three travel guides on California --Travel Temptations Sun (beachy destinations), Sip (wineries) and Snow (you guessed it!). She has traveled to more than 50 countries and every continent except Antarctica, but after sailing in hurricane seas one time, she wouldn't wish 50-foot waves upon her worst enemy.