I had a very new experience today: I sailed solo. As part of my ongoing effort to keep a part of me out of the engineering building (and because I’ve always wanted to learn), I signed up for a sailing class this spring. It was a once-a-week class in which we learned the theory of sailing and then got out on the lake and actually practiced it. Well, today, a mere six weeks since we started, we had our final class. And to finish up the day (which also included a capsize drill—where we practiced righting a capsized catamaran—and a fairly short written final exam), I stepped alone into one of the small, one-sail “Sunfish” boats the school owns, pushed off from the dock, and set sail. On the second day of class, when we first came down to the lake, I remember being extremely hesitant to even set foot in one of those boats, even with a TA on-board to direct me. Now, there I was, trimming the sail and adjusting the tiller almost as if it were second nature to me. (Almost; I still have a lot to learn about the finer points of adjusting the sail.)
Even though the wind was light, it was an exhilarating feeling being out on the water like I was, choosing where to go and then making it happen by steering the rudder and adjusting the sail to catch the wind accordingly. Just me, the boat, the waves, and the wind. For half an hour, the cares of school and the rest of the world fell completely out of mind, and for the first time in a good while I felt truly free.