My family moved to Miami in December 1988. My brother, Jon, was nine years old at the time. We used to go fishing with cane poles in the canal and the neighborhood lake, and my dad bought a small boat. From the time that he was nine years old, all my brother wanted to do was fish.
At the age of eleven, Jon got a job at Burt’s Place, a bait and tackle shop near our house in Saga Bay. He spent the next four years picking the brain of every boat captain who walked in.
In ninth grade, Jon was fortunate to have an English teacher who let him write almost every paper on fishing as long as he used different resources. I think he might have failed English if that weren’t the case.
My brother worked waiting tables and bartending to save money while he practiced tying knots and throwing nets. He got his captain’s license and logged hundreds of hours on boats to become a captain. Jon was always working, always saving. Finally, in 2002, he obtained his USCG Captain’s License.
For nine years, he was a captain and a mate on other people’s boats, and in 2011, Jon finally bought his own boat. I don’t know much about boats, but I have been around them enough to know that they are an endless money pit. Forget the hurricanes and oil spills and all of the other major shit that affects the fishing industry. I’m just talking about daily and weekly problems.
Fishing is a brutal job. Jon wakes up at ungodly hours and works long days that are almost entirely physical labor. His hands are constantly ripped and gashed. He’s sunburned, sore, and exhausted.
But, my brother bought his own boat. He’s living his dream.
I had a dream when I was nine years old. I wanted to be an astronaut. I mean, I really wanted to be an astronaut. That dream stayed with me for three or four years and then I allowed it to die a slow death when I was rejected from a junior high summer space program. I gave up.
How many people had a dream at nine years old and then actually achieved it? I realize that most people won’t actually want to follow through on their childhood dream. I think about one of my college students who told me last year that his dream as a child was to be a dinosaur. That wasn’t quite possible. But, even if it wasn’t a childhood dream, most people have given up on a dream at some point, and in all likelihood, it was a realistic and achievable dream.
I sure as hell wish I hadn’t given up on my dream. Maybe I wouldn’t have made it to space (my Atrial Septal Defect votes no), but I may have been a theoretical physicist or mathematician or engineer. I might be designing a new rocket or fixing the Hubble telescope right now if I hadn’t quit.
I have to go do some curls right now because I have new dreams.
I don’t call them dreams anymore. I simply call them goals.
Time to grow some biceps.
At some point, the Florida Keys will be open and thriving again. When that happens, if you want to fish with my brother, head to Drop Back Charters in Islamorada.