Rites of Passage

I saw on the news last night a story about a girl (Abby Sunderland) being rescued while on a solo around-the-world sailing trip. She was in the Indian Ocean, and the rough seas had taken their toll on her boat, demasting her and leaving her drifting. She’d been on a sat-call apparently when it happened, and the sat call (which used the mast as an antenna) was abrubtly cut off. Her emergency beacon’s went off and Search and Rescue out of Australia came roaring out, found her and verified that she was OK and stable (the boat wasn’t taking water) – they should be picking her up today, if they haven’t already.

Abby is 16, and was going for a record: youngest solo around the world. Pretty damned impressive.

At the article in the Seattle PI online, the first comment was made by someone calling themselves “Bobert”. He wrote:

Her dad’s a moron, no need for a 16 year old to sail solo around the world.

I don’t know who this person is, but whomever they are – they symbolize something that is very, very wrong with our society today. Preserve and protect at all costs. What the fuck have we come to? Our rites of passage are down to “driving”, “graduating from high school”, “getting laid for the first time”, and sometimes “graduating college”. What happened to Thomas Jefferson’s american ideals – where the hell did we loose them? Maybe what passes for mainline culture thinks a rite of passage is a barbaric, untidy thing. It’s “dangerous”, and not for those who haven’t “proven themselves responsible”. They might get hurt.

How the hell do you prove you can be responsible in this day and age? By looking down, fitting in, not making waves, and getting by? We need to be looking up and out, trying things, and reaching out for our limits. We need to think, plan, and move ourselves forward, not just follow along.

I don’t know about being in the Indian Ocean during the winter months down there, but to my mind Abby was taking a rite of passage. Also trying to get the youngest-solo-around-the-world record is neat, but to me somewhat irrelevant. She was going out and doing something that I’m sure has touched her in some significant ways, and none of the externally visible.

One of the best things I did around College was go one a four-month walk-about in Europe. By myself. Right after college, I got a backpack and my parents got me the tickets and a Eurail pass. I was off. I think that was my most significant rite of passage. Being by myself for months, in countries where I didn’t even speak the language, teaches you something about yourself.

So to the Bobert’s out there – wake up and fucking smell the coffee. We are not going to make a difference in the world by being sheep. Going on a rite of passage, by whatever you want to call it, should be praised for the effort, not belittled.

Published by heckj

Developer, author, and life-long student. Writes online at https://rhonabwy.com/.

6 thoughts on “Rites of Passage

  1. I agree and disagree.

    I do not believe a 16 year old is matured enough for certian activities, and how young is too young to you? Does a 13 year old deserve the right of passage to sail around the world alone, and when that’s done shall we all cheer for the 10 year old that’s going to do it? Not to mention the risks and costs involved in rescuing these people, I think it’s inconsiderate and irresponsible for parents to make the safety of their children someone else’s responsibility.

    I do agree though that a lot of people are too soft, I just think youngsters can take risks in other ways that will not threaten their life and that of others, and once they’re 18, in most countries, they can go off and do what ever they like and face the consequences as legal adults. Note though that most of them will not be mentally matured at 18, especially boys.


  2. Don – I agree that some people aren’t mature enough – at any age – to handle some responsibilities. But that’s a per person opinion that anyone can have. At 16, in the US, we allow people to drive. It’s a line, we drew it in the sand (with the exception of some 12+ year olds in rural areas… so I guess it’s not really a line some much as a big fuzzy blur).

    If the Abby thought she could do it and her parents agreed – then it was time for her, wether or not she was “really ready”. You would never know until you decides yourself, and the point was that Bobert certainly didn’t have any basis for his judgement, showing a bias that just happened to trip a trigger with me.


  3. Got this one right. Time to define people by who they are, not the year they were born, or any other discriminating characteristic- which is suppose to be the foundation of this country.


  4. Absolutely right on. Let’s not confuse the issue by the ‘at what age’ thing.

    Abbey was old enough and brave enough, if the mast hadn’t come down I think she would have made it. She comes from a feisty family who supported her all the way.

    I to at age 16 had my rite of passage working and traveling Europe on my own. Best thing ever.

    Here’s to Rite’s of Passage!

    Great Post…..



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