I added Sarah Marshall’s Drinking the Seagull to my “to read” list several months ago (it was published in early August, so, yeah, I’m a little behind on my reading list—as always) after seeing it recommended on The Browser (they’re tagline is “Writing Worth Reading,” and they always live up to it).
I was a little creeped out by the title, and rightly so as the subject of the essay , one Poon Lim who survived 133 days on a life raft on the open ocean, does in fact, literally drink the seagull. Specifically, its blood. So, there’s that.
It’s a short piece, but thoughtful and personal. I love the honesty, how Sarah Marshall is so forthright and just the right amount of self-deprecating when she describes her sloppy, crazed grad school life. She bares her eccentricities unabashedly, with a disarming honesty that makes her seem instantly familiar and relatable.
The comparison of Sarah’s haphazard life to that of Poon Lim’s, a life marked by ingenuity, resourcefulness and an iron-hard strength of mind, body, and spirit, is interesting. She aims to understand why she finds Poon Lim so fascinating, but, instead of trying to draw a link between his story and her own, she shows how they are so markedly different. And how that is the point. He had to struggle and fight for life in the most dire of circumstances. We, too, she says, must struggle and fight for life, for real life, for everything we love and want.
“If we want time, we must scrape it away from the bone of the day and use it as wisely and as expeditiously as we can.”
We shouldn’t think that because we live life solidly on the ground and are not castaways lost at sea, bludgeoning sharks to death, we can approach our days with casual indifference. We deserve opportunity to be great, but not greatness itself. We have to be willing to drink the seagull.