I was a 21 year old kid, enduring the bachelor degree slog at my local university. All of my friends were prancing about Europe and everywhere else I would rather have been at the time.
September 1997, I managed to snag my first co-op job as a second year computer science student, which would allow me to save up enough to finally feel that feeling all my friends wouldn’t stop talking about the first time you step off a plane in a tropical country. January couldn’t come quick enough.
I started my trip way down in Perth, Australia. Four of us would end up completing a 14 day motorcycle journey across the Nullarbor desert, ending our adventure in Sydney. But that’s not the point of our story here.
I would then move on to New Zealand for a couple of weeks on my own, now-obviously not enough time to explore any country in the world, but not yet obvious back then, and also not the point of our story here.
Next up, Thailand where I would quickly meet a fellow Vancouverite, Angela, who was on her way to meet a couple of Brits that she had met earlier on the trip. “Mind if I tag along?”, I asked.
“Of course not – the more the merrier!”, she responded, back when people actually talked to each other using words and not thumbs.
We met up with Rosie and Jo down in the southern part of the country, yes, myself and three gals, and we decided we would hit one of the nearby islands. Off to Ko Phi Phi we went to bask in the glory of the recent filming of the De Caprio blockbuster, The Beach. It was Ko Phi Phi where I would soon meet my unbeknownst-to-him future guardian, Brian.
Brian, My Guardian Angel
Brian was a nice enough guy. He lived in Boston and had a very heavy Boston accent. A tad on the nerdy side, but forgivable I thought, he had put himself through the paces early on, college degree and all that, found himself a well-paid desk job by the time he was in his mid twenties. His worst quality me and the girls thought at the time, was that he was oooooold. 39 years old, to be exact.
…but for some reason where the girls couldn’t see beyond that, I could.
Brian was very clearly going through what some would call a mid-life crisis. Personally I find that term very outdated and not all that accurate so I choose not to use it, but he was apparently and absolutely tearing his own life apart in his head. What was he doing with his life, why was he wasting his life working for someone else, why wasn’t he following his dreams, doing what he actually wanted to be doing, how did he let himself burn through all of his best years doing what he didn’t want to be doing. What was his purpose, what was it all for.
Brian has no idea, but watching him go through this struck a serious chord with me, far greater than he would ever believe even if I could tell him (it was a time before email if you can believe it, and I certainly couldn’t tell you his last name!). I have no idea what he did after Ko Phi Phi, I like to think he changed things around, but unfortunately based on most peoples’ habits it’s more than possible he didn’t.
Since meeting Brian and watching him go through what he was going through, I’ve thought about him a lot, often even making decisions based on a “Be Better than Brian” rule. It baffles me that I’m nearly Brian’s age now and its only in this last year that I’ve actually started doing anything differently from Brian. I guess I’ve got three years on him at the very least. When I met him, it seemed like his epiphany was coming as a surprise to him. Not the case for me though, thanks to Brian. I guess I have that on him too – I knew since 1998 that this was coming.
We leave for a three month trip to Thailand and her neighbors in five days from now. If I see Brian, my guardian angel, we will have a few more things to talk about this time.