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I grew up dividing the year into two seasons: sailing and non-sailing. Whenever the non-sailing time came around, you could be sure to find me scribbling madly on the corners of my agenda, a rushed sketch of an Opti visible after I drew my hand away from the paper. I would gaze out the window during class, staring at the trees wondering how it would feel to be sailing through the breeze instead of sitting in class listening to my teacher drone on. Any sight I caught of the ocean made my heart beat a little faster- I would strain to spot any familiar boats as we drove by wintery harbors in the car. It’s safe to say I was hooked on sailing by the age of ten.

When summer finally rolled around, I was in the zone. From 9-4 everyday I was sailing. My bleach blonde ponytail whipped through the salty air as I tried to eke every ounce of speed out of the seven foot nine inch bathtubs we sailed, fondly known as Optis. My sailing instructors were my idols. Bob, Emma, Annie, Charlotte, Doria, and Dave were the coolest human beings in my life. I knew I wanted to be just like them when I grew up. They were the epitome of summer: lounging in the Whalers, they blew their whistles and yelled themselves hoarse all day long. “Tiller towards trouble!” “Abigail!” “Avoid collisions at all costs!” “Abigail! I mean it!”

I was counting down the years until I could finally join their ranks. Fourteen was the magical age.

My first day of work marks the moment I knew I was old. Pauline the Junior Program Director handed me a white polo. I traced my finger over the embroidery, pausing on BHYC Junior Apprentice. This was the big leagues. I had finally made it.

The kids trickled in, running and screaming. I went to get my first cup of coffee. Why were all the kids so annoying this year? Everyone seemed so little, and I felt so old. Then I looked at my fellow instructors and felt tiny compared to them. They knew what they were doing and were so much older than me. Did they think I was just as tiny and annoying as the kids around me? Did I even deserve to be on the staff?

From that moment on I completely lost all the confidence and excitement that had been building inside me ever since I’d set my sights on working for the BHYC. I was afraid to talk to my fellow instructors even though I had acted nuts around them my entire life. The sudden change in authority made me feel as if I was pretending to be older than I was. I was still a crazy kid at heart, but felt afraid to say anything because I didn’t want the other instructors to think I was immature or trying to steal their authority. I was terrified of telling the kids what to do because I didn’t want to seem too bossy. It was a weird place to be stuck in; too old to be in the sailing program but too young to be on the same level as the confident, tan, cool instructors I wanted so badly to emulate.

As the summer wore on, I made friends with some of the kids and they started to like me. However, I could never convince myself that they respected me. It felt so strange to be on the other side of the whistle.

Three summers later, I now know that it is crucial to approach each summer with confidence. If the kids sense weakness on day one, there goes your chance of being taken seriously. My solution: get the kids laughing and on my side, then order them around. If they don’t behave, in the water they go. It’s simple, and now they think I am the cool scary instructor who will throw them in the ocean if they get too sassy. Dealing with these monsters has given me the confidence to take on anything!

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