The Final Test
I was lying on the water. I was trying to focus so hard. Very clearly, I can hear my breathing. I can feel some tears rolling down my face.
“Hinga, pigil, labas sa bibig. Hinga, pigil, labas sa bibig.” I said it repeatedly to myself. It sounded like a prayer.
And indeed, it was. In fact, it was one of the simplest yet sweetest and most sincere prayer my lips have ever uttered. Because that prayer came from a hungry heart. A heart that’s so eager to win.
As I said the words I became less and less doubtful. The fear I had slowly turned into hope. Inside my head I began to draw beautiful pictures. Of me giving my family a better life. Of me seeing what the other side of the world looks like. And lastly, of me healing the wounds that Papa left when he died.
Then something magical happened. I felt myself getting light. So light that I didn’t sink. I finally floated.
This was me in 2011 when I took my basic training in Tanza, Cavite. I needed to pass it to get a seaman’s book. That’s my ticket to a dream. A dream to work at sea.
Now you might be thinking, there’s nothing special about this story. Well I must tell you that I’ve always been afraid of the water. Up to now despite all the amazing beaches I have visited, I still don’t how to swim.
So how did that happen? Inside me was a burning desire to sail away.
De sidere is a Latin word meaning “from the stars.” This is where the word desire was taken from. Desire is not just a want. It’s something bigger and more powerful than that.
It’s a yearning or a craving. It’s an emotion directed toward a possession of an object or an attainment of a dream. A dream which comes from the stars. Or to others, which is also what I believe, a dream that comes from God.
Now I’ll ask you. Why do you want to work on ships? I think to know the answer to this is far more important than knowing how you can work on ships. Your answer to this will determine the course of your journey. A journey that’s not so easy to take.
People think that cruise ship workers live a charmed life. Thanks to all the amazing travel photos. Also the dollars we bring when we go home. But that is just one part of a much bigger picture. They’re only seeing the happy, exciting and colorful part.
Your ship journey will start not when you join the ship. It starts way before. The minute you decide you want to do this. The moment you awaken your dream.
It starts when you make your resume and wake up really early to go to an agency. Never mind if you have to brave through the heavy traffic and get squished like sardines inside MRT.
It’s walking under the scorching heat of the sun. And waiting on very long lines.
It’s when you hear a no from the recruitment staff or got turned away by the guard. Rejections abound here and there but you try again and again.
It’s when you’re tired from work but you choose to stay. You need further experience and expertise. You need money to pay for your family’s needs.
It’s when you run low on budget, so you grab every opportunity to earn and save. It’s for photocopies, pictures, travel fares, training, and certificates.
It’s when you go for an interview and you fail. Or when you go for your medical and you find out something’s wrong, so you have to do it again.
It’s when others say you don’t have what it takes but you refuse to listen. You find ways to better yourself. You keep chasing your dream. You keep believing.
It’s waiting for days, weeks, months, sometimes even years.
And yes it’s learning to float even when you don’t know how to swim.
These are just a few of the many sacrifices you have to make. And believe me there are many more to come once you’re on the ship. So it’s important to know why you are doing this in the first place. If you’re unsure you will just throw the dream away.
What’s Your Why?
“I want to travel the world and see beautiful places while earning more money to shape a better future for my family.” That was my answer to the fleet manager who after looking at my credentials seemed puzzled to see me in his office.
He asked again. I had to sound more convincing. I added that the thought of travelling to different countries is really exciting and as a teacher I don’t get paid enough.
These were the last minutes of my final interview. I was feeling nervous, but I made myself believe that I would get the job. True enough I was hired.
I told my interviewer I want to travel, see beautiful places and earn money. Well partly true. I didn’t tell all.
I didn’t tell him Papa died and I was really hurting inside. I didn’t tell him I was lost and couldn’t understand. I didn’t tell him I was looking for a place so I can heal and forget. I didn’t tell him I was trying to help myself.
And these reasons, I believe, have given me the job.
Now it’s your turn. Pretend that you’re up for an interview. I’ll ask you the same question I was asked before. Why do you want to work at sea?
Make it powerful and emotional. They say we make our decision based on emotion not logic. We decide and then we justify it.
What is your hunger? Don’t make it shallow. Make it deep and wide. Something that you will think about every day and every night. Something that will make you carry on when the others have given up.
So what’s your reason? What’s your big, powerful, emotional why? Tell it to yourself (not to me or to your interviewer) and be honest. It’s your answer that will get you through the tides.
As the good book says, “You have to be clear with what you want. It is only with clarity of purpose that you’ll have the courage to ask, to seek, and to knock (Matthew 7:7).”
Follow your dreams.