Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life was so much easier...20 years ago.

This Saturday is my 20 year high school reunion. 20 years. Amazing how fast they fly by. The peculiar thing is that, at 38, I still feel relatively young. Certainly not like someone who graduated from high school 20 years ago. I've accomplished quite a bit in those 20 years although nothing that I expected. It was actually 20 years ago this month that I enlisted in the Army Reserves to help pay for college. I then went through 4 years of college and got a Bachelor's Degree. I entered the work force and spent 5 years in sales and advertising only to realize that it was not for me. I even spent a year living on the beach.

I survived 8 weeks of basic training at Ft. Dix, New Jersey and another 12 weeks of training at Ft Gordon, Georgia. While definitely not enjoyable I count them among the experiences that helped shape me into a man.

I spent 2 weeks in Honduras with my Reserve unit helping build a school and a medical facility for poor villagers. I'll never forget it, they had no school or medical clinic in the entire village before we got there...but they had a bar.

9 years after graduating from high school I felt like I was going nowhere so I started over, joined the Army and came to Europe to see if I could find what I was looking for and ended up getting it in spades.

Looking back, I think my fascination with Europe was born in high school. My family are all French Canadians and I hated the fact that when I got together with my older relatives, they would be speaking French and I couldn't even though I was only one generation removed from them. I took French class in high school and it opened up new horizons for me. For one thing I was lucky enough to have a teacher, Mr. Cote, who was funny and got me really interested in learning the language of my people. Of course the French that was taught in school was from France not Canada so a lot of the lessons incorporated everyday life in the motherland, which I found fascinating. In fact, years later when I finally did come to Europe, I was in Germany and my favorite trips back then were always to France because I was experiencing first hand the type of life that I had studied years before in Mr. Cote's class (And Mmes. Ravenelle and Mulhern too of course). I guess I'll always be thankful to Mr. Cote for planting that seed so many years ago.

The funny thing is, when I was in Germany and wanted to transfer to another place in Europe, my dream at the time was to go to Belgium. I loved the whole "Benelux" area and was convinced that after a tour in Belgium I would be fluent in French for sure. At the time I was probably about halfway there anyway. I put Italy second on the list as a fallback and what a fallback it turned out to be. I've spent the past 9 years of my life immersed in all things Italian and have developed a love affair with this endearing country that has never subsided or abated. It's funny to look back and realize how it all could have turned out different if I had been approved to go to Belgium instead of Italy 10 years ago.

I've been fortunate to be able to see a bit of Asia as well. In the 20 years since I graduated, in all the places that I have seen, Hong Kong still remains my favorite place in the world. I've been there three times and it breaks my heart that I am not able to go there every year to get at least a taste of it. I could never explain what draws me to the place, it's just something I feel when I'm there. Hong Kong has given me a wonderful wife and 2 beautiful kids. So yeah, I guess you could say it's had quite an impact on my life.

It's funny, a week or so ago out of nowhere, the song "Twenty Years Ago" by Kenny Rogers just popped into my head. I downloaded it on iTunes and have listened to it a thousand times since then. Something about it just really takes me back to twenty years ago and all the high school memories, good and bad, come back to me. I picture in my mind sitting at my 20 year high school reunion watching a slide show of all of us from back then with the song playing in the background. Unfortunately I won't be there. I've got a wife and two kids now and a job that takes up way too much of my time, not to mention that I'm an entire continent away. I wish it was as easy as jumping into my crappy old Chevy Cavalier station wagon that I used to drive in high school and driving down to see everyone but I guess it's like Kenny says; life was so much easier...20 years ago.


Anonymous said...

I love these types of posts, Rik. Keep the nostalgia coming. Steve-O

Anonymous said...

great post rik. makes me think about the past 20yrs as well. -ridersdad