Learn to paddle your own canoe

Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe

Dearest wee girl,

I feel like I first came across this saying when I was at camp, ironically enough, and terrified of having to stern a canoe.

(*those who went on canoe trip with me will tell you with much certainty, that I was a middle seat sterner.  But refused, time and again, to sit in the back and steer…)

I honestly don’t know why, Zoe.

Actually, I do.

I was terrified of not doing it perfectly.  Of messing it up, not going in a beautiful straight line, using the wrong stroke (a sweep instead of a j-stroke…).

And most of all, afraid of steering others in the wrong direction.

Zoe, the piece in all of this that makes no sense whatsoever is that I absolutely, positively, love canoeing.

I loved camp with my whole heart, my whole soul.  I grew there in ways that I never would have grown otherwise.  I have the dearest friends from camp, folks who I can go years without visiting and then we do and it’s like we were sharing a platform tent only yesterday. I loved going on canoe trips, coming home (aka back to camp) filthier than I ever thought possible, full of gorp (good old raisins and peanuts) and good cheer and wearing slightly damp runners. And yet… I was filled with dread every time we had to go across the lake to our island for our overnight trips or Sunday BBQs or even going out canoe tripping solely because I might possibly have to stern, or even more scary, solo a canoe.

I think back to how much my worry crept in and it makes me so sad for that girl who didn’t want to let others down because she was afraid she wouldn’t be perfect.

Honestly, Zoe, nobody cares if you’re perfect.

No one cares if you don’t make the zucchini bread from scratch (or at all!), or if you steer the canoe in a slightly crooked line, or even if you steer them in a slightly offbeat way using the wrong stroke.

Folks just want to be your friends, and sit in your canoe with you, crooked lines and all.

I finally solo’d a canoe for the first time just a few years before you came along, at the ripe old age of thirty, seventeen years after learning all the different steering strokes (yes, seventeen years!!)

And I can tell you that there was no greater joy than taking that canoe out by myself, on a beautiful, still lake, at Grande Zia and Grande Zio’s cottage.

Actually there is one greater joy…having gained that confidence in steering imperfectly so that I could go out in a canoe with you, my dear girl, not just once but twice this past May long weekend.

So learn to paddle your own canoe.  Learn your “stuff”…the things and skills that are important for you and to you. Learn them well, but don’t worry about the perfect.  I think, no, I know with all certainty, that I worried enough in my past for many, many, many years to come.

Now it’s time to just hop in the canoe, life jacket buckled up, and get paddling.

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2 Responses to Learn to paddle your own canoe

  1. Susan Murray says:


  2. Bobby says:

    This is wonderful writing. Thank you for sharing.

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