When my twin sister and I were nine or ten, my mom asked if we wanted to sign up for sailing lessons that summer or get our own sailing dinghy. The way this was posed was much like the time my mom, inspired by a story in our Highlights magazine about how sugary cereals didn’t actually taste very good, decided to buy us a box of Lucky Charms for us to taste test.
That’s another story, but this choice was also framed expertly by my mom as a no-brainer for me and my sister: the cost of the eight-week session for the two of us was more than it would cost to buy a sailing dinghy of our own. Our own boat. Summer after summer of sailing, not just a few weeks.
It was not a racing dinghy—it was a tubby rowboat with a sail. Mostly we paddled from wind pocket to wind pocket in the protected harbor. But we were on our own. And we’d already learned the basics of sailing from our dad; from before we could remember, our family vacations and summer weekends were spent on our 26-foot Pearson sailboat, essentially camping on the water instead of driving a small RV to a campground. It was fantastic.
Of course, I developed a lifelong inferiority complex about my sailing skills. Even after six summers working at a local marina and then three full years on the dock staff of a sailboat charter company after college, I constantly feel the need to qualify my boating abilities and bona fides. I constantly am adding in the caveat that while I know how to sail, I don’t know how to sail sail. Sailboat racing has always been “real sailing” to me. If you’ve grown up riding horses, you’re probably not constantly telling people that, well, sure you can ride a horse, you’ve been doing it your whole life, but you never got into dressage. Or horse jumping. Or whatever other equestrian specialization you find yourself lacking in experience.
But for some reason, I have always felt that recreational sailing—cruising, casual daysailing—doesn’t really count. Though I know lots of accomplished dinghy racers who have no idea how to bring a sailboat to the dock under power.
Not surprisingly, this is not the only area in which I suffer from impostor syndrome.
Cecilia Kiely is a semi-professional writer and editor and amateur parent. She’s never sure which is worse, listing a single publication or none at all, but her creative work has appeared in Sinister Wisdom. She also writes about boat-related things for Passagemaker. She lives down a half-dirt/half-paved road somewhere in New Hampshire.