Why I left television.

All of the usual reasons, I suppose.
Wanted my health back.
Wanted my family back.
Wanted to be my own boss, and not answer to eight people every day.
Wanted to own something.

The usual.

Now that it’s been two-years-plus since my escape, I can look at it with a little hindsight. The following is an essay I wrote to myself upon leaving. Getting out of television news is not an automatic thing. There’s a lot of fear that your skills and work habits are so unusual and ingrained that you’ll never make it in the “civilian” world. That alone keeps many trapped in an industry that treats them like expendable cogs:

Smacking the ship…

There’s an awful lot of work that goes into building a boat. Most people who care about sailing, and have the time, also have the disposable income to just lay out the cash and buy one.

Who builds boats these days, anyway?

Those trapped on islands.

Desperation breeds ingenuity, resolve, and all of those other positive character attributes that boy scouts require, since the organization doesn’t offer ship-building merit badges.

Badges — we don’t need no stinking badges. Just give me some tools, or some sharp rocks to make rudimentary tools, and let me chip and chop some bamboo and coconut trees. If Gilligan can make a raft, I can make one with shade. I’ll lash the posts together, boil my own rosin, and make this sucker seaworthy.

So. Why am I so crazy?

Turns out, there’s boatload after boatload of people trying to get onto my island. So many people, eager for their day in the sun, and ready for the life of splendor and luxury that goes with it. It’s only after a four-year cruise they find out it’s a one-way trip, and the locals pay you with sand.

Sand. Nothing but ground quartz. If there was a way to heat it up, you could make some glass, or maybe a mirror. Then all of the self-made refugees on my island might figure out what they really look like, instead of relying on their own absorbed self-images.

Poor kids. They spent so much time trying to beach themselves, they can’t bring themselves to ask whether they should be trying to go home, or someplace more fulfilling. Because island life is hard. You can only live for so long on cocounts and weed salad. And Tom Hanks made spear-fishing look easy.

The recent arrivals marvel at my survival skills, but I dare not show them the boat I am building. I’m not worried about anyone taking it for a spin — It’s just easier to deal with the rest of the lost if you don’t remind them how lost they are. They just get angry at you.

Building a boat isn’t easy — and it’s even harder when you have to do it in quiet.

The key is concentrating on the boat. You can’t look out at the waves, because there’s another fear that grips you. The fear your boat somehow won’t handle those waves. The fear you’ll find little to eat and less to drink out there than you’ve got right here. The fear the others will laugh at you when you float back to shore, in your red shirt and white Gilligan hat.

I made up my mind that I was going, but hadn’t put a when on that plan.

The siren did that for me.

Now, I really was worried about my boat, because the siren called my name before I was ready. At least, before I thought I was ready. All those fears, all those insecurities, all those doubts… you know what the hardest part was?

Smacking the ship.

Because when you do, you have to give the craft a name. It becomes a relationship. It becomes personal. If it fails, you’ve failed.

Don’t ask me how, but I wound up smacking my ship anyway. And I launched. And I’m off. And I’m relieved. And I can’t thank the siren enough.

I’ve still got a little owing to do.
I’ve still got a little rowing to do.
I’ve still got a little growing to do.
But at least I’m off the island.