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.