My trans-world journey began on Monday, October 17th: Truckee to Sacramento to San Francisco to Hong Kong to Singapore. Doubtful I’ll fly United again, with no individual video screens and a lackluster selection of movies on a shared overhead screen ~ the likes of which included Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Oh, goody!
Sitting next to the window for 14 hours from SFO to HKG, I struck up a conversation with the young man in the middle seat. A recent Berkeley grad, he was a mechanical engineer for HP who designed one of the parts for a new printer HP is manufacturing in China. He and seven other employees were on their way to oversee quality control during initial production of the new device. He expressed his desire for a more exciting career, feeling that designing a part for a printer didn’t hold much charm. He was conflicted about having a great job but wanted more adventure in his life. He was thinking about joining the Marines to embark on a career in aeronautical engineering. We talked about the commitment of that, the inherent danger of that and conforming to military authority after an incredible time in college at Berkeley. Over those 14 hours, some red wine, a Tsing Tao and some really bad airline food we shared a lot about our lives and where our individual journeys were taking us.
At 41, it was the first time I’ve had a conversation and realized that I really can’t count myself among “young people” anymore. There were 15+ years between me and this person next to me, with choices I had made and things I had experienced that he had yet to discover or even think about. I for sure understood his need for adventure, but adventure is all around us and not just found in the military. I suggested traveling for six months before making any significant decisions to that end.
We disembarked and didn’t have a chance to say goodbye or good luck as I struggled with baggage and and he moved toward the exit. I’ll never know what choice he ends up making, or if I do it’s because his adventure has taken him somewhere like Afghanistan from where he hasn’t returned.