The hardest thing about living in an isolated place like La Maddalena, Sardinia is the difficulty in finding enlisted sailors who shared the same level of intelligence. I know it shouldn't matter, but over the years, when I looked for the common denominator in my diverse group of friends, I learned that it was the ability to have intelligent conversations over a wide range of issues. And the three college friends I visited in Utah last year, I noticed something else...the three friends I visited and I had a lot of the same books on our shelves. It made me realize that I don't have as diverse a group of friends as I thought. Sure, they might be different races or religions, but we share the same "culture", you might say. A "culture" of a certain intelligence level.
When I lived in Italy, one thing I noticed early on was that I had more in common with officers than fellow enlisted. However, the Navy has a policy against fraternization (enlisted and officers aren't allowed to be friends). At the time, it was like confining me to the kiddie table at Thanksgiving even though I was an adult. The cultural differences between enlisted and officers was huge. In fact, so many enlisted people I knew either had divorces under the belts or their marriage didn't last during the time I knew them. Officers had a lower divorce rate. Officers were less likely to smoke than enlisted people. And it was simply easier for me to have a meaningful conversation with an officer. If I wore civilian clothes when people first met me, quite a few did a doubletake when they saw me in an enlisted man's uniform. So many thought I was an officer by the way I carried myself.
So, after all these years, it's just one more amazing thing about this year that has me shaking my head. I love reconnecting with people and to see what twists their lives have made. I also like discussing our younger selves and know that I wasn't the only one who was insecure (though I was probably more secure about myself than most people were at that age about theirselves). When you learn a fuller picture about someone, it truly is an amazing thing. What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger.
My dad discovered recently an unopened box I had sent to myself in 1994. I was shocked when he told me because I thought I sorted through everything when I moved back home in 1996 and again in 2000. Now, I get to open it up as though its a time capsule from my 22 year old self. I love surprises like this and look forward to opening it up and discovering what I found important enough to send to myself.
This is the town of La Maddalena, Sardinia where I lived from 1991 through 1994. The population was 13,000 full time residents (70,000 in summertime).