Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A pirate's look at 22

“I need to go to the hospital. I broke my nose.”

“Ok, I am on my way.”

A vastly different way than I thought I would spend my 22nd birthday. I spent the better part of the actual morning celebrating my birth in the hospital with my best friend. Fittingly he celebrated the festivities of Halloween as the game Operation. The doctors loved him. However we spent a lot of time in the emergency room (2am to 6am) which allowed for some reflection on the last year.

This time last year, I was setting up for one thing; my semester abroad in Egypt. I knew from my French teachers in grade school that I would study abroad for a semester in college. The parts of my life I consider most interesting (Jordan 1 and post) were all training to do the full semester in a place as different as Egypt. I had done two summer long stints in Jordan in 2007, and 2008, and had gotten the short trip dance taken care of with numerous conferences and a three week study session travelling around Egypt. However there would be a big punctuation before I would leave for the Arab world. This exclamation point would take the form of an anchor. I was offered a position with the United States Navy on the last day of the Fall semester, sending my life down a very different path from what I went into my previous year with. I was then ready to take the plunge, to fully immerse myself in Alexandria, Egypt and fall in love with the sea. My last post before I left was from a Jimmy Buffett (whom I have become borderline infatuated with in the past year) song:

“Reading departures signs in some big airport reminds me of the places I’ve been…Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure make me want to go back again!”

So I will.

See you in the Sandbox!

And I went. And had a wonderful time. The first night I was there I walked to the Nile. I watched the sun set over the old city, as hookah smoke tangoed above my head and below the Arabian stars. However things would not be as they seemed. The country I intended to fall in love with as on it’s own course. The Arab Spring would become a defining moment in my life, and has provided me great insight.

And like that first crack from the authorities gun, I was off like a pinball for a quick stay in Prague, where I yet again learned the power of patience and an easy going attitude. I found myself in a country where I once again had to look up exactly where it was. Oman was different. I never thought I would end up there, and can’t say it was all fun and games. But I learned there. I learned Arabic, I learned photography, I learned solo travel, I learned that faces are so much more interesting than trees, sunsets, and buildings. Above all I learned to understand myself. I learned to not long for consumption, to travel light and look for the best in situations.

The tumultuous semester eventually found me walking off a plane to those I love. It was an absolute thrill to see my parents after undoubtedly putting them through a rather stressful semester. It was just as pleasing to see friends and a gal whose company I have enjoyed for the better part of my Drake career.

Taking my love of beaches and at this point life’s soundtrack of Jimmy to heart, I took a job living in Des Moines sailing. This was the first time I had ever lived in the US without being in school or with my parents. I finished off a basement with the help of my fraternity brothers and had a wonderfully fun summer. I read, hung out, got into trouble and then got out of it. It was a positively wonderful way to spend my last summer of civilian life.

I learned and then taught sailing. I had friends out on a Hobie Cat almost every week. I spent countless hours before and after work tacking and jibing up and down Gray’s Lake. I watched sunset after sunset from a dock and reaffirmed my love for Iowa.

I witnessed my brother graduating and head for college in Minnesota. I got to relive some of the entering freshman angst through him, fondly reminiscing.

I spent one of the top three nights of my life with a beautiful woman seeing the man in concert who along with Steve Job’s ipod, kept my spirits up and wanderlust flowing.

And now I am a senior. 22 years old. By this time next year I will have a degree, and be an Ensign in the United States Navy. I may be underway back to the Middle East. Before the next birthday I will have undergone one of the most challenging and grueling experiences I will face: Officer Candidate School. A lot can and will still happen before then, and it is always good to have a crew. I will continue writing this as long as I have interesting things happening. Come along, and welcome aboard.

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