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by Sara Pacelle


For  me, this summer has meant long bicycle rides, navigating the seas and contemplating careers.

Practically  every day I am out on my bike riding 15 miles through my beautiful New England  town. It’s a challenging ride, but each time the ride gets easier and easier.   Some days when the weather is crummy, I just don’t feel like going out, but I do  and am always glad when I finish.

Earlier this summer, my daughter did a two-week bicycle trip from Maine to Quebec,  Canada. She bicycled an average of 50 miles/day in blaring sun and pelting rain.  She shared the road with impatient cars, uphill, downhill all the while carrying  50 lbs. of gear. She set up camp and slept in a tent each night and then packed  up and went off on the bicycle again first thing in the morning. It was  challenging and healthy and out of her comfort zone. She went into the journey  intending to succeed and believing in herself. Beforehand, she prepared herself  physically and mentally and spent time gathering the proper equipment. She gave  it all she had and in return received increased confidence, self-awareness and  strength of character. Not a bad deal. My older son did the same trip a few  years back and returned with the same results. I suppose willing yourself to do  something really challenging and then actually doing it can be an amazing life  lesson.

This summer, my family and I also spent some vacation time up in beautiful Mount  Desert Island Maine out on the enchanting Maine coast. In the evenings after  some “sparkler” days on the water, I had the chance to read an introspective and notable little book called First you Have to Row a Little Boat by Richard Bode. Ostensibly, the author shares how he  learned how to sail as a child, but on a deeper level he presents a metaphor for life with one’s choices and changes and ultimately, one’s self-discovery. Mr.  Bode writes how he learned to sail with his own passion and invaluable help from  mentors but also from separation, loss and hardship. He learned to navigate life through sailing.

"As humans we live with the constant presumption of dominion. We believe that we own the world, that it belongs to us, that we have it under our firm control. But  the sailor knows all too well the fallacy of this view. The sailor sits by his  tiller, waiting and watching. He knows he isn't sovereign of the earth and sky,  any more than the fish in the sea or the birds in the air. He responds to the subtle shifting of the wind, the imperceptible ebbing’s of the tide. He changes course. He trims his sheets.
He  sails."

Both Bode’s book and cycling got me thinking about careers and how we can still direct our careers given unforeseen circumstances, the overall economic environment and  other forces beyond our control. Whether we’re riding a bike or sailing the seas  or navigating our careers, we will encounter challenges that will test us.   Perhaps we will need to alter our career plan or take a different direction to  get to our intended career goal. There may be big hills in front of us or gale  winds around us, layoffs, rejections, and prolonged job searches, but those  cannot undermine our sense of purpose and intention, our life's destination.  Throughout our careers, we will face both opportunities and setbacks, but one needs to be nimble enough to  make changes while keeping one’s sense of purpose.

As Mr.  Bode says, “Don't lose sight on your destination… for the quest of your life is  to discover who you are.”