Ferry Land

March 4, 2013

Short essay by Teaque Lenahan.


Mas issue boundary ferry land 01

© Teaque Lenahan.

The ferry is a floating metaphor. Of what, I’m still trying to absolutely determine. The obvious thing is that it’s a watery separation from my work self and home self, with the one world slipping into the distance as the other grows in clarity. You have the choice, on the boat, of facing either forward or backwards; perhaps it’s telling that I always, always face forward. You can have beers with friends, sit in the same spot or switch it up, and I regularly get to talk with architects, welders, mining engineers, urban traffic designers, startup founders, and the occasional maritime lawyer. There are even regular bald eagle fly-bys and the rare orca sighting.

What I have determined is that it’s a daily moment to myself, a minute to think.

I didn’t expect to feel this way. About the kid, the house, the ear hairs that define a man getting older. Embracing it all feels so… natural and enjoyable. (Maybe not the ear hairs.) But to admit that reality seems so cardboard, like life fitting into some predetermined decade-defined boundary, or god forbid, into some demographic ‘segment’ that someone in marketing owns with Getty stock images of beautiful middle-age people, smiling with matching sweaters. And yet… once the denial settles in, and starts to decay, and finally gives way to the new order of things, after years of saying that I’d never not live in a major city, that I wasn’t a “kid person,” that I didn’t live for work… here I was, absolutely loving my daughter and fatherhood in ways I could never have predicted, commuting by ferry to a medium-sized city that has no bigger ambitions.

If I leave work fifteen minutes before the boat, I can easily make it. Twelve minutes, I have to run. “Hypermiling” is what a colleague calls this charade. Like I’m a Prius owner squeezing out every last MPG. And I have to admit, my left knee hurts from running these steep pacific northwest hills. And my driver’s license reminds me that I am, in fact, now exactly 40.

Is it possible that the decades of a life actually do have personalities, or is that just life imitating marketing? It occurs to me that I’ve never had a more terrifying thought than “life imitating marketing.” As though I see commercials of people buying sensible cars, family vacation packages, and 529 Plans, and think, “yeah, that’s about right.” And though I’ve tried to stay true to my identity, if your identity keeps evolving through the decades, I’m not honestly sure what that would mean. “In our lives, we’re many people,” George Saunders has said, and not only is he right, but I’d add that we’re many people throughout our days, sometimes even before breakfast. So why does it seem so hard to let go of one self and embrace the next?

As I look in the digital mirror, it scares the hell out of me to wonder: am I simply writing the essay that marketing would have predicted I would at age 40? Perhaps fortunately, there’s no time to ponder, just live: I’m down to thirteen minutes, haven’t packed up, and can’t find my knee brace.