People sometimes ask me what it’s like having a divorce happen to your family.
I simply tell them this. Divorce is like owning a boat. Not just any boat. This is no dinky rowboat or clunky rental houseboat. Our boat is a sleek, fifty-foot yacht. It is a beautiful piece of art, with state-of-the-art navigation systems and the most powerful engine to date. It boasts all the best bells and whistles.
We love it. It’s reliable. It can weather any storm. It has steered us clear of more hurricanes than we can remember. We always reach the harbor safely. We have total confidence that when problems arise, we are protected.
However, lately, there have been odd hiccups in the system. The engine just doesn’t sound right, and sometimes we have to wrestle with the controls. Thinking that everything will right it itself, we don’t go down to look at the engine. We don’t dig deeper. Why should we? We’ve always been fine. There have never been any mishaps in the past. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?
So one day, we go out power sailing. Every thing’s fine. There’s nothing but us, the sound of the engine, and the ocean. Not a single cloud glides through the perfectly clear blue sky to mar the lovely, balmy weather.
Then, silence. The engine has died.
We shrug. It’s probably nothing. We click off the controls, reset, and push the buttons to turn the engine back on again. To our horror, nothing happens. The controls are unresponsive.
We climb down to the engine room, and throw open the hatch. A stinking cloud of black smoke greets us. When the smoke clears, what we witness brings us to our knees. What?! We want to scream. When did this happen? The yacht is falling apart. Our shiny engine has gaping holes in it from where the metal has corroded. Parts are rusted and are weeping great, gritty, orange tears onto the rotting woodwork. Strips of moldy, worm-eaten wood have fallen from the ceiling and litter the floor.
Suddenly the gentle currents that rocked our boat appear as terrifying riptides, waiting eagerly to drown us. The secure walls that protected us now trap us in a rotting prison. The sea we sailed so many times is now foreign and frightening. In the space of a heartbeat, we realize three things:
One, we passed out of sight of land hours ago, and are a far-cry from help.
Two, our boat is taking on water at a terrifying rate.
Three, despite all the warning signs, ß never went down to the engine to check anything.
In our defense, we had no reason to inspect the engine room. We are just kids and everything up until this point has led us to believe that nothing was amiss.
Before we know it, our family boat has sunk and we’re floating among the wreckage of our beautiful craft. Somehow we have managed to crawl onto a broken piece of wood from the floating deck. The yacht is lost and we can’t seem to stop mourning. Panic stricken and filled with grief, we hover on a chunk of the former family stronghold as we attempt to remember a few important items:
We have two choices.
- None of this was our fault. Even if we had caught on to the steady decomposition of our boat, there was nothing we could have done to stop it.
- These were forces outside our control. Nothing we did contributed to the loss of our craft.
1. We can stay lost in this sea of grief and loss forever.
2. Or we can buck up, dry our tears, and start paddling.
And then the strangest thing happens as we choose survival with option two. We look around us to notice hundreds of other stragglers struggling to stay afloat on their pieces of flotsam. It dawns on us that together we could build a raft and paddle to safety. Then, who knows, with all the experience we have accumulated in the sailing world, we can be the captains of our own ships. This time not only will we tie the knots and hoist the sails, we’ll check the engines. We will not be shipwrecked. We will pilot the family boat to forever.
We will survive.
Morgan Hunter is a junior at Campolindo High School. She enjoys writing, drawing, red pandas, not doing things in a conventional manner, being helpful, and watermelon.