When you reach the end of a ship contract, you can’t help but feel so many emotions all at once. You feel ready to be back into real life, but also very uneasy about it. You feel sad about leaving so many people from all over the world, knowing you might not see them ever again. You feel happy to have been exposed to cultures that are unlike any you’ve ever witnessed, and happy to have made such incredible bonds with so many co-workers from every department. You feel relieved to be so close to a real bed and fresh food, but you also don’t miss doing dishes and grocery shopping. You dread leaving your closest ship mates, yet you also look forward to having your own space and quiet again. Its all a cluster of ups and downs with this job. Because for anyone who works on a Vessel like us, work isn’t just work. It’s a lifestyle.
The countdown has begun– 2 more cruises as a dancer, 4 more weeks of ship life, and 10 more shows until I get to fly to home sweet Naples, Florida. The more I think about returning to real life, the more it sinks in that this all feels like a really drawn out, vivid and influential dream. When I get off the ship, will I have to re-adjust to real life? Will it feel weird to NOT have to worry about being somewhere at 4 or 5 pm because I am so used to “all aboard” time? Will I get anxious with my free time? Will I be able to drive a car as well as I used to?
I admit the the things I am looking forward to most are the simplest pleasures.I can’t believe I am saying this but I can’t wait to cook! To eat real whole vegetables. To sleep through the night with no noise, no rocking, no tiny bunk bed! To wake up in my pajamas and drink coffee on the sofa in a living room looking outside instead of eating breakfast in passenger friendly clothing. To walk around my house wearing underwear and not having to stop and socialize or open my mouth and talk until I want to. To drive down the beautiful sunny street of 5th avenue and people watch. And most of all, I’m looking forward to giving my body a break from these shows and heavy stage makeup!
I do know one thing about leaving the Maasdam after all this time– after 9 months at sea, I will take away more knowledge than I could possibly hope for. I’ve learned that my own culture and background is just microscopic compared to the rest of this world. I’ve learned that other ethnicities, cultures, countries, continents, and peoples can teach you more than any form of education. I’ve learned that a simple smile, eye contact, and a sweet “Hello,” “Good morning,” or “How are you today, _______?” in any language or culture is enough to make a person’s day. I’ve learned the powerful effect of saying someone’s name on a regular basis to make them feel more special and personal. I’ve learned that hierarchy is damaging. That we all are equal in the workplace and we should be treated as equals in regular life as well. I’ve learned that the hardest workers are often the ones who barely complain and who smile all day long in gratitude for their lives. I’ve learned that engaging in conversation with other people and listening with intention can make your life all the more prosperous. I’ve learned that socializing and bringing people together under a community or workplace can make your life feel purposeful.I’ve learned that a healthy diet and exercise regimen does so much more than keep your body in shape. And lastly, I’ve learned that health should not be taken for granted, that life is precious, and that our journey on earth is fleeting and should be spent joyously.
Thank you to Holland America, the MS MAASDAM, Stiletto Entertainment, my ridiculously amazing and loving cast, my adoring stage crew family, my philippino and indonesian family and coworkers, my entertainment department, my deck and engine buddies, and even the many passengers for making this contract all the more insightful and memorable. I don’t know whether this is my only ship contract or not, but I hope that our paths align in the future.
For now, I am simply going to enjoy the breathtaking views and treats in Canada and New England and hang on for the rest of this wild, beautiful ride. Or should I say cruise.