This past weekend was my 20 year high school reunion. For the mathematically challenged among you, that means I graduated high school in 1989. 1989 was quite a year in my life. It brought many changes, some new beginnings and some endings. It was one of the more enjoyable years of high school for me as I was a senior and enjoyed quite a bit of freedom.
My two best friends in high school that year were Randy Pouliot and Dan "Bubba" Francouer. Study hall that year was the best ever as all three of us were in there and the teacher/monitor was Ms. Dickson who was a history teacher that liked to treat seniors like they were adults rather than students. It was Bubba who gave me the nickname by which I would be known for the next 5 years or so. Since I was learning French, the guys used to call me Richard, but with a French accent so it sounded like "Ree-shard". I watched the Superbowl at my sister's house that year. Randy, Bubba and a bunch of others were watching elsewhere and drinking beers. Suddenly Bubba realized that I wasn't there and asked "Hey, where's Ree-shard?!". As he did so, sportscaster Ahmad Rashad came on the screen which led to some "Ahmad Ree-shard" jokes and by the end of the Superbowl (49ers over the Bengals) I became known as Ahmad. The name stuck so well that during the following 4 years in college, not a single person knew my real name was Rik. I was Ahmad Thibodeau and to this day, my college friends still call me Ahmad, the name I acquired in 1989.
I had been accepted to Franklin Pierce College (since renamed Franklin Pierce University) by the time 1989 had started but I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. So on a whim I enlisted in the US Army Reserves in the summer of 1989, a move that would have a bigger impact on my life than any other I've ever made. The years I would spend in the reserves were mostly uneventful. But years later, tired of a dead end job and a dead end life, I would enlist active duty and come to Europe to start a new life. My preference was to join the Air Force as it would have been a better quality of life and better job training but because I had been in the Army Reserves, I was not allowed to join the Air Force. I had to join the Army or nothing. The Army it was. In the end it turned out very well for me as I have lived in Europe for over 11 years now, have seen the world and have started a family. But oh how different it might have been if I had not made that fateful decision to join the Army Reserves to get money for college way back in 1989.
There was a poignant moment in the summer of 1989 that I have never forgotten. I played in a church softball league with a bunch of friends from my church. One Friday in the summer of 1989 my best friend Mike Buczynski picked me up in his little gray Toyota Tercel and we headed to the ball field. One of the most popular songs that summer was "The End of the Innocence" by Don Henley and it came on as we pulled into the parking lot. Mike said to me "Have you heard this song?" and I said yes, I really liked it. Then he said "you know, if you think about it, it really is the perfect song for us right now. We just finished high school and we're about to go to college. We'll be on our own for the first time and suddenly we have to grow up. So it really is the end of the innocence for us.". It may sound corny to you but it really hit me when he said that. We had reached the end of an era. High school was fun, we had no responsibilities, no worries. And now things were about to change and we were all about to go our separate ways. I guess it might have been different if I were going to University of New Hampshire with Mike, Jen, Steve and most of my other Nashua friends but that was the one school I applied to that didn't accept me. Within two months I would be starting college and military service (such as it was). Looking back, I don't think I was prepared for either. It truly was the end of the innocence for me; the summer of 1989.
I have a feeling there will be more high school posts forthcoming...