I stood along the starboard rail of a fishing boat trying to guard myself from the icy wind and the frigid waves crashing on board. I kept stomping my feet and shaking my hands to keep them from going numb. We were on the Washington coast in late January working on a seemingly endless string of Dungeness crab pots. It was only 20 degrees, but the steady 30-mile-per-hour wind made it feel much colder. The pots were coming up stuffed with crab, but those crab had long stopped looking like little dollar signs. I was a world away from my old life, my old girlfriend, my old cubicle at the newspaper where I once worked.
It was 2:30 a.m., and I had been up for nearly 24 hours. All I’d eaten that day was three frozen burritos and a Styrofoam cup of ramen noodles. I’d forgotten what day of the week it was, because days of the week don’t matter when you’re fishing. The three of us on deck hadn’t said a word in hours. We retreated into our minds to cope with the misery of the night. I kept asking myself, “What the hell am I doing here?”