Last night, I finished reading a collection of short stories by Ernest Hemmingway and while I love his style and the compelling thoughts that linger long after I have turned the last page, The Old Man and The Sea is the only story that has really, really resonated with me. I first read this story when I was in college and I remember that even then the message of the story was loud and clear. Some things just never change. No matter how old you get or how weak you become, the truest part of yourself will always remain undamaged.
As you read this story, the old man gives the sense that he is neglected, weak, and desperate but as the story progresses you see just how strong and tenacious he really is. Even after a horrendous spate of 83 days without a single catch in the ocean, he remains resolute and refuses to accept other offers of employment.
The sadness and despair he seems to exude changes suddenly when he is out at sea. The transformation is palpable and the author so beautifully describes how his ‘blue eyes are alive again.’ He ventures out bravely and boldly without a fear to do what he knows he is best at.
In our own lives, we each face a variety of failures – personal, professional, academic…the list is endless. At those moments I often hear two distinct voices at the back of my mind. One tells me I am no good while the other encourages me not to despair and to persevere towards the goal I wish to achieve. The old man too finds himself in such a predicament. He chooses to listen to the latter voice and in a moment, all those past failures become a distant memory as the giant fish thrashes at the end of his line. A fish that turns out to be the biggest catch of his life.
Have you caught your giant fish or like me, are you still waiting for the tide to turn? Have you given up? Has the wait gotten to you?
I think the story serves as a beautiful metaphor for our own lives and whether we choose to believe it or not, is completely our decision to make. But what I love most about the story is that it encapsulates such a moving message. Victory or defeat is not determined by your age, mental capacities or physical strength. It relies solely on your strength of will and your determination and desire for success. It is my personal belief that if you have the latter, then victory will always be within reach.