Canoeing in Wekiwa: A lesson on relationships

“I would suggest that anyone thinking about marriage should take a canoeing trip together.”
(Photo by: Mika Korhonen)
“I would suggest that anyone thinking about marriage should take a canoeing trip together.” (Photo by: Mika Korhonen)

Written by: Josh Kim

Last week on the first-ever Steel Band tour, my longtime friend Ashley Blake and I went canoeing together. We began to work our way up the Wekiwa River in a wildly wobbling manner. For the first five minutes, we essentially went in circles because we were sitting backwards in the canoe. After fixing our mistake, with Ashley at the helm, we continued, weaving into (not through) various obstacles, such as logs and other canoes. Eventually we arrived at the freshwater springs, far behind the rest of the group.

Convinced that I could do better (I was convinced, and she acquiesced), we decided to switch roles on the way back. Not wanting to come in last, we decided to leave before the others. Somehow we still ended up in the back once again, even after the rest of the group took a detour to see another spring. To be fair, though, we did frequently stop to see alligators, turtles and birds.

What I learned from the experience:

Compatibility can change. Back in middle school, Ashley and I took a team to the national level of Pathfinder Bible Experience. Our most recent team effort was significantly less successful. Just because it worked yesterday doesn’t mean that it works today.

I have a new appreciation for the term “unequally yoked.” I thought that this only applied to people who were wildly different. Apparently this also applies to people who are too similar. In my assessment, Ashley and I both assume leadership roles when we perceive a power void to be present. We also tend to solo group projects because we don’t trust others to perform satisfactorily. On the way up the river, when our canoe began careening off course, we would both simultaneously dip our paddles on the same side, thinking that the other person was too dense to notice the deviation. This resulted in frequent overcorrections and subsequently slower progress.

Soft quitting can be good or bad. We had peace and quiet for approximately 40% of the ride back (at the cost of my arms) as Ashley self-assigned an observer role. Because neither of us were fighting for control anymore, we did make some progress. However, she also placidly sat as we directly plowed into multiple river obstacles. Just like the Titanic, by the time I was made aware of the issue, a collision was inevitable.

Communication is important. My telepathic paddling instructions only worked 10% of the time. It seems like people perceive things differently than I do (or perhaps to a lesser degree of acuity). Also, you apparently can’t AirDrop knowledge. When I gave verbal instructions, though, we did much better.

Appearances matter. Although I paddled for the majority of the trip back, Ashley just so happened to paddle at the very moment when I took a short break, and we passed a large group of onlookers. Heckled, I tried to explain in vain that I had done much of the work that got us this far. Apparently, she should dump me and find someone better.

Canoeing tells you a lot about someone. Ashley suggested that marriage counseling should include a canoeing trip. I am inclined to agree. Afterwards, we decided that a separation was in our mutual best interest. Unfortunately, we had to ride the same bus back to Southern last night. The Hallmark estranged-to-reunited trope did not occur.

Written by: Ashley Blake

Last Friday, I asked my longtime friend Joshua Kim if he wanted to be my canoeing buddy for the afternoon. Little did I know that, apparently, I would learn all sorts of life lessons from this seemingly innocent excursion.

I do not have to be the leader. I allowed Josh to steer our vessel most of the time because, frankly, I did not really care if his canoeing skills had us zigzagging around the river; I was tanning. However, as Josh challenged me to think more deeply about our journey, I realized that I gave up leadership of our vessel so easily because I will almost always defer leadership to someone who wants it more than me. All good leaders need followers. By deciding to be a follower, I had a much more relaxing canoe ride, especially because Josh forgot that I could not read his mind and continued to try to AirDrop me paddling instructions instead of verbally telling me what to do.

Appearances are important. When we passed a restaurant on the side of the river, I realized that I automatically began to paddle because I did not want to look lazy to the innocent bystanders. Since I began paddling, Josh took a break. This was brilliant because it made it appear like I, the female, was pulling all the weight in the relationship. The restaurant crowd began yelling out relationship advice such as “dump him.” Poor Josh. He did so much behind the scenes that was not recognized.

I would suggest that anyone thinking about marriage should take a canoeing trip together. It will reveal a lot. Josh and I have never had a relationship like that, but I can say with great certainty after this experience that we never will. 

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