I have always reacted to stress in my life by trying to bring beauty and order to my personal life. The El Faro sank on October 1, 2015. When it happened I was pretty busy working as a Port Relief Officer at the Matson docks and later as third mate aboard the Matson ship M/V Mokihana. The El Faro was on everyone’s mind on the dock and on the ships. I was sure that it was time for me to stop going to sea. I spoke of it often to my shipmates and coworkers. It is an old trope among mariners that everyone always talks about retiring for years and years before they do. I had to take a lot of good natured ribbing every time I said I was going to retire.
Once I finished that seagoing assignment in 2016, I was on vacation for a while. I had just gone past my 20th year of days at sea, qualifying to retire. I was extremely disappointed to find out how small my union pension would be. I would not be able to retire until I was 59.5 so that I could draw on my 401K and IRAP (Individual Retirement Account Pension.) It was then that my mind began to fixate on the El Faro since I knew I would have to work on old dangerous ships for at least two more years.
Just as the stress started to mount I heard about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I read the book page for page, carefully following the play in the order Marie Kondo outlined.
It took me about seven days, and at the end I had sorted out fully half the things I owned. All the things I kept were stowed away quite neatly, and over the past two years making sure they stayed neat was a process, which never failed to sooth me.