There’s another thing that sailors of the past had to contend with. The doldrums.

There’s no wind. You may know exactly where you are, but you’re going nowhere and there’s nothing that you can do about it. With the doldrums, it doesn’t matter how good your boat is and it doesn’t matter how experienced the crew is. You’re adrift, you’re not making any progress toward your destination and you don’t know how long it’ll last. You’re just floating there waiting for something to happen. And unlike modern boats that have engines, in centuries past, sailors just had to stare at empty sails hanging off the mast like laundry. You’re at the mercy of the wind and all you can do is hope and wait for your luck to change.

The historical accounts of sailors were clear on this subject. They’d take a storm over the doldrums any day.

Now let’s just put all this bad luck together.

You’re blown off course.
You don’t know where you are.
And there’s no wind in your sails.

How do you know what to do when everything is fluid? When there are no reference points on the horizon to know where you are? When there isn’t any wind in your sails to move you forward? And worst of all, you have no idea how long this will last.

What then?

I think we finally got this metaphor to a boil.

Early on, he was well on his way. He was fairly smart, energetic and charismatic. Academically, he was never at the top of his class, but his work ethic made up the difference. After graduation, he got a job where that work ethic paid dividends. He didn’t mind getting up early and working late. But, it’s not just that he put in long hours, he also viewed the work he did as a reflection of his character. He was never satisfied with “good enough.” He wanted it to be good. He also believed in loyalty and settled in with a good company with the plan of working his way up.

Along the way he met a pretty girl and they started a life together. Over time their family and their house grew. Over the years, he did all the things he thought he was supposed to do and took care of the people he was supposed to. His youthful body grew older and grey hair filled in around his face.

He was satisfied and he thought the people around him were too.

Then one day he got an email from HR stating that the company was restructuring and they needed to meet with him. Hoping he might get a promotion, he found instead that his position had been eliminated. It was a blow he wasn’t expecting, but he was resilient and immediately started trying to find a new job. But the job market wasn’t anything like he remembered and his efforts just resulted in rejection after rejection after rejection. Online job boards seemed worthless and all he wanted to do was talk to a real person. He couldn’t understand why he couldn’t land or even get interviews for jobs he was qualified for? What was wrong with him? Anxiety plagued him and it became harder and harder to sleep through the night. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into a year. Hopelessness began to set in. He was far too young to retire, but it was obvious nobody wanted to hire him. What’s he supposed to do with the next 20 years of his life?

His relationship with the girl he married all those years ago began to crumble. And then one day she was gone. Hopelessness turned to despair and anger.

Then one day he looked into the mirror and didn’t recognize the person staring back at him.

How could everything have gone so wrong?

This isn’t where he was supposed to be.
And didn’t know where he was or what to do about it.
And there didn’t seem to be anyone or anything willing to help him.

He’s adrift.