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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1711929-The-End-is-the-Beginning
by Jeff
Rated: 13+ · Essay · Biographical · #1711929
Ten Years Ago in 2000 Entry - Sep 2010 - Where I was and what I was doing in the year 2000
The year 2000 was a bit of a milestone for me. Not merely just the beginning of a new decade, a new century, and a new millennium, that particular year was of particular significance to me.


I.


2000 was the year I was eighteen. Technically, I turned eighteen in December of '99, but 2000 was the first opportunity to really exercise my newfound adulthood. And while the ability to rent a car (at vastly inflated prices since I was not yet twenty-one) or be tried as an adult held a certain joie de vivre, the real pleasure of being eighteen is the ability to vote. Coming from a civic-minded family, and a conservative one at that, I was eager to flex my newfound right to vote and prove to my family that we did, indeed, live in a blue state, no matter how red our particular county appeared on those maps during election night.

What made voting a particularly engaging experience was the fact that my first real election was a "big" one. In November of 2000, when my classmates and I cast our first real ballot for a political race, it would be to choose the next President of the United States. In retrospect, that particular election may not have been the best, most shining example of democracy in action, but it was inspirational. Voting in that election – my first election – inspired in me an understanding of how significant a handful of votes can be. I distinctly remember driving to school every morning, listening to the news and wondering if this would be the day we'd hear that a decision had been made - Bush or Gore - and whether or not those hanging-chad votes would swing the election either way. I don't think anyone realized what a long and drawn-out process it would eventually turn out to be, or that 537 votes in Florida could usher a candidate who lost the popular vote into the White House.

Not every election is as controversial as that first election, and not all of them are decided by a handful of votes in a state clear across the country (or by the Supreme Court), but the process – from my perspective – will forevermore hold that excitement and sense of awe, wondering if it will again come down to a handful of votes ... and if one of those votes will be mine.

There was no better incident to show a newly-minted voter the incredible power of a small number of votes, even despite the controversy.


II.


2000 was the year my family took our first big vacation. Or rather, the year my family took our first big vacation to somewhere I was actually excited about visiting. While I don't begrudge my parents their hobbies of camping and fishing, it really only takes one dismal experience to completely turn a teenager off from the great outdoors, and waking up one night during a torrential downpour, to find your air mattress floating in the waterlogged bottom of the tent certainly qualified as that experience.

So rather than our usual annual expeditions to such affectionately named places as Scotts Flat, Convict Lake, and Rattlesnake Gulch, we planned a family trip to Hawaii. We visited three islands over the course of nine days, and I discovered what paradise truly meant. Our days consisted of snorkeling with sea turtles, hiking, biking, and sometimes just plain old lying out on the beach. We visited Maui, Kauai, and Oahu. We went from the solemnity of the Pearl Harbor memorial to the insanity of Waikiki beach; from the laid-back Main Street shops in Lahaina to the unearthly beauty of the isolated Kauai. And the best part? There was not a fishing pole or Coleman camp stove to be found.

It was a combined vacation to commemorate my brother's sixteenth birthday, my high school graduation, and my parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, all of which occurred in the same four-month span in the summer of 2000. It was one of the most memorable trips of my life, and one that not even a world-class sunburn (requiring me to stay indoors for half the trip) could curtail. It was, unquestionably, one of the major factors in the decision for the return to Hawaii – eight years later – when my wife and I finally took our honeymoon.


III.


2000 was the year of endings and new beginnings. As previously mentioned, it was the year I graduated from high school. We were the first graduating class of the new millennium, although the feelings of excitement mixed with apprehension were, I suspect, something that was just as prevalent way back in the '90s. It was the end of the past four years of our lives and goodbye to the friends we had made during that time. Actually, it was a very small town, so it was goodbye to many of the friends we had known since elementary school.

Many of my classmates had already secured their place at reputable institutions of higher learning across the country. Some were admitted because they scored in the 99th percentile of the SAT; others because their GPA was north of 4.25 (yes, 4.25 – we had a lot of overachievers); others still because our football team broke countless records our senior year. I, however, would spend the fall at one of our local community colleges, working my way toward a transfer to a four-year university.

I should mention that my grades weren't bad, and I could have gone to either of the two semi-local four-year universities right out of high school. Unfortunately, 2000 was also the year I discovered that what I really wanted to do with my education was earn a degree in film and liberal studies (much to the displeasure of my parents). And I say unfortunate because I made this discovery in the first few months of the year, just weeks after applications were due ... and I hadn't applied to any film schools. I was stuck, for at least the next two years, in my hometown, working toward being able to transfer to one of the esteemed collegiate film programs in Southern California.

At the time, this detour seemed a horrible blow to my life's forward momentum, but in retrospect I can say that I wouldn't have had it any other way. For had I moved down to Southern California immediately after graduation, I never would have met a remarkable young woman in the spring of 2002, who would later move down to Southern California with me and – years later – exchange marriage vows with me on a beach in Malibu.


IV.


2000 was the year I first lost someone close to me. Shortly after our senior year resumed in early 2000, one of our classmates (one I had known since kindergarten) passed away after losing a fight with bacterial meningitis. While we weren't necessarily close high school buddies or anything like that, we had known each other for the better part of our lives, suffered through the trials and tribulations of elementary school, junior high, and high school together, and our families knew one another reasonably well, as our families only lived two streets away from each other for the entire duration of our upbringing.

My senior year, I was a staff writer for our high school paper, and I was assigned the task of covering her passing for the paper. I'll never forget sitting in her parents' kitchen, having to ask insensitive journalistic questions, while wanting nothing more than to comfort her mother, who couldn't stop crying as she remembered the two of us playing as we grew up, and all the times we spent together.

At her memorial, a troubled, mutual friend of ours came back to town to speak at the service. Until the day he moved away, he had always been trouble. A certain incident firing water balloons at passing cars with a water balloon launcher (and mercifully having it malfunction as a motorcyclist – who surely would have been knocked from his ride – passed by) comes to mind. This was a kid as rough as they come, and we all watched as he broke down in tears when he spoke at her memorial.

It was the first time in my life I was faced with loss of someone I knew personally, and knew well. It was the first time in my life I had to put on a brave face and do a job, when all I wanted to do was run and hide. And it was the first time in my life I saw the true power of emotion as it crumbled someone we all thought was impenetrable.


V.


2000 was the year of my first high school dance. The previous three and a half years (and then some) had been spent pining for someone who didn't return my feelings. Being the chivalrous (i.e. timid) guy that I was, it didn't seem right to turn around and ask someone else immediately after being rejected by the girl I really wanted to go with.

It wasn't until the last semester of my senior year that I began to have fun and enjoy myself. I went to the winter formal dance with a group of friends, one of whom didn't have a date. I went to prom with the same group of friends, another of whom didn't have a date. And while long-term, lasting romance wasn't at the forefront of my mind during either experience, it was the first time that I allowed myself to cut loose, have fun, and enjoy my formative years. Those first few months of 2000 were the ones where I learned that not every date has to lead toward a committed relationship, and not every dance has to be danced with your soul-mate. Especially at eighteen, it was okay to be casual and enjoy yourself.

While I've occasionally lamented the fact that it took me so long to learn that lesson (all the missed dances and activities from those first three and a half years), I also recognize it as the turning point in my life that it was ... in exchange for those first three and a half years of high school, I gained some much-needed perspective, which has guided and molded me into the person I am today.


VI.


In retrospect, the year 2000 might seem like it was a rather busy one. I was still three years away from discovering Writing.Com, and my life was filled with the adventures of youth: vacations, high school dramas, becoming an adult, and the mysteries of that exciting new thing called college.

As I look back on all the years between then and now, and all the strange and often wonderful directions my life has taken right now, I can't help but think that the year 2000 was a defining year for me; the one in which my life really got started. While it was the end of high school, which was tantamount to the end of my life as I knew it back then, I can look at it now and realize that as much as it was the end of high school, the end of a century, the end of my childhood ... it was, more importantly, a beginning.

The year 2000 didn't just bring about the birth of the new millennium; it also brought about the birth of who I am today.


(1,904 words)
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