Recently a friend sent me this picture via Facebook and it triggered some strong memories from my past. During my 20's, I lived 15 lifetimes in one decade. Every day was new and exciting...and different. To this day, I can still remember them with vivid detail. It was the Peace Corps that changed me, but not in the way I had thought it would. I look back on this time with fond regard, but I also look at it as a time that transformed me into the person I am now. Something inside of me "snapped" into focus. Recently I found some letters in a box that I had written back in the late 90's. I'll be visiting those letters in January. We are having a reunion in Spring on the East Coast, but I'm not sure where it is.....just that it's there in that cold tundra. I haven't seen many of these people since this picture was taken back in 1999. There are several exceptions of course, like my beautiful roomie below who lives up in Washington. I'd love to go and visit over the summer.
It seems like yesterday. It seems like so long ago. I don't know anymore. The other day a student of mine asked me during a lecture on Costa Rica if the person in my slides was me. And I replied, "Yes it is." The kids all looked back at me and then again at the pic. It was quite hysterical....and not. I was young and full of adventure and it got me thinking....."Have I changed that much?" I sometimes think that my family doesn't have a realistic picture of me today. They remember me as I was years ago, and when I go home to visit, and because they're family, I find myself reverting back to that person that really isn't me. I don't even like to label myself as a Spanish teacher....just a guy who is trying to live his life quietly during these terrible times. And it is here in this blog with photos and writing that I find I am able to write and reflect on a quite productive and full life. I always hope my students can take my life messages and hidden lectured meanings for their own use down the road, but I am not 100 percent successful. I've lost several wonderful students over the years to drugs, car crashes, cancers, the war, and brain tumors.....people that had the potential to do good things, but were taken too early. I know I know. I can't watch over everyone....just do my job, but there is still a piece of me that hurts a little everytime I hear about a former student who has suffered a bit.
|A former student discoving the amazing city of Barcelona. I'm not sure he should be standing there, but I know I saw him come alive during our student trek to Spain in 2004.|
The simple fact is that I'd love to tell them all, "It's going to be okay." But it's not. There are no guarantees in life and that is why we shouldn't wait for "retirement" or vacation to do things....we should do them now because we don't know what tomorrow will bring. When I look at the Peace Corps pics above, I remember it was during that time I wanted to settle down and buy a house and go back to Tucson. And that is exactly what happened. I don't regret the decision because I am very happy today, but I do miss the spontaneous things that happened regularly everyday. If you asked me what I did last week, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I liked the 30's, but I'm ready to bring a little spontaneity back into my 40's. Older people will say, "You're not old." I'm not. But looking back at things, I remember a lot of the impulsive and selfish decisions I made that I certainly would not make today. But then again it's all a part of being young. I try to convey that to the teenage population before they leave their parent's nest. Go. Explore. Do the things you've always dreamed before settling down. Be a little bit selfish and do take a little time to do the things you want to do before you have house payments and other bills(aka children:). If you don't, you may regret it. I never regret joining the Peace Corps and am thankful for the opportunity. If I hadn't done it, I would always live with the disappointment of not having the experience. However with that being said, I wouldn't ever try to do it again because the person I was then died a long time ago on the desert islands of Cape Verde. My next several pieces over the next couple days are reflective works that I'm sure many of us have experienced in our lives. I'd love to hear your own. I put them into a series of personal writes from my past. More tomorrow....