My Transoceanic Midlife Crisis

By Savage, Roz | Newsweek, April 4, 2011 | Go to article overview

My Transoceanic Midlife Crisis


Savage, Roz, Newsweek


Byline: Roz Savage; Savage is an environmental activist and author of Rowing the Atlantic. She blogs at rozsavage.com.

I quit my job and ended my marriage to row the Atlantic. Adrift and alone, I found a woman I never knew.

In March 2006, I found myself, at 38, divorced, no kids, no home, and alone in a tiny rowing boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I hadn't eaten a hot meal in two months. I'd had no human contact for weeks because my satellite phone had stopped working. All four of my oars were broken, patched up with duct tape and splints. I had tendinitis in my shoulders and saltwater sores on my backside.

I couldn't have been happier.

After 3,000 miles and 103 days at sea, I was about to accomplish my goal of rowing alone across the Atlantic Ocean. I had wanted a challenge that would help me find out just what I was capable of when I put my mind to something. And now all my hard work was about to come to fruition. No doubt many of my friends thought I was suffering an early midlife crisis. If so, I believe that everybody should have one.

I had worked as a management consultant for my entire adult life, despite knowing from the very first day that this was not the career for me. I graduated from Oxford University in 1989. Most of my peers wanted to be consultants or investment bankers; I followed the crowd. The pay was good, and it would do as a stopgap until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.

Eleven years later, I was still in my stopgap, and increasingly unhappy about it. Who I was on the inside didn't match the besuited management consultant I had, almost inadvertently, become on the outside. Desperate to figure out what I should do, I sat down one day and wrote two versions of my obituary. The first was the one that I wanted, one that read like the obits of risk takers whose lives were filled with spectacular successes and failures. The second version was the obituary that I was heading for--the type you wouldn't want to read in the paper.

So I pared life down to the basics to find out what really mattered to me, to find out what was left when I was defined by who I was, not by what I owned or who I was with. …

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