The nice lady asked me, out of the blue, "What's your goal?"
Laser sailing? Goal? Hmmmm. Do I even have one any more?
The occasion was a group dinner during the Massapoag Mashers
One of the other sailors' wives, a very nice lady, turned to me and asked me, "So, what's your goal?"
I was taken aback.
I didn't know how to answer.
Probably she was just trying to make polite conversation. Or perhaps just trying to get a word in edgeways as five Very Serious Laser Sailors blathered on about Laser sailing. Or maybe she was genuinely interested in my sailing goals.
But I took her question, probably entirely wrongly, as an accusation. She probably didn't mean it that way (she is a very nice lady) but I read into her question a hidden meaning something along the lines of, "Why on earth are you old geezers taking this Laser sailing game so seriously? What's the point of attending all these clinics? Do you seriously hope to improve your skills at your age? What's the point? What's your goal?"
So instead of answering her question politely, as the very nice lady deserved, I went on the offensive and tried to think of some clever riposte to her question about my sailing goals. I had just been reading the pages that inspired yesterday's post, the account of the research into how top violinists became so great. In my mind I was bouncing around the idea that my approach to sailing these days is pretty much the same as my approach to playing the classical guitar forty years ago.
I played for my own pleasure. I would pick a new piece every week and teach myself how to play it and practice and practice (on my own) until I could play it properly to my own satisfaction. The only goal was to be able to play each piece correctly, without mistakes, flowing smoothly, and with some element of musicality so that I could enjoy playing it.
I hardly ever played for anybody else. After a while I did take some lessons so that I could improve my skills even more. Guitar playing, generally speaking, is not a competitive sport. But my guitar teacher did persuade me to enter a local music festival and I did win the classical guitar section. Woo hoo! But that was never a goal.
Where was I? Where am I? Oh yes, the very nice lady and her question about my Laser sailing goals.
With all my thoughts about the analogy between playing the guitar and Laser sailing jostling around in my head, I blurted out, "What is my goal? Would you ask a musician that question?"
As soon as I said it, I knew it was a stupid question. Of course musicians have goals. To win a job with that elite orchestra. To play at Carnegie Hall. To master Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major. All sorts of goals.
But I must have had enough attitude in my response that the nice lady could tell I meant it as a rhetorical question. After all I was talking about my younger self, just plucking away at a guitar for my own amusement.
"Of course not," she answered.
She was sort of right. I don't have goals any more like "Place in the top half of the fleet at the Masters Worlds" or even "Sail my Laser 100 days in 2012."
But I do still want to sail my Laser correctly, without mistakes, flowing smoothly, and with some element of seamanship. Purely for my own amusement.
What's wrong with that?