kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
My cousin is currently touring Yellowstone with his wife; they're posting pictures on Facebook and causing me to reminisce about where I was 10 years ago.

About this time I was wrapping up my final few weeks of my last tour as a Park Ranger at Yellowstone. And while I loved the park and, to a certain extent loved the solitude, I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to getting back to Alabama, and to my friends. Still, that summer changed me. Perhaps more than any short period of time in my life before or since.

2002 was, by far, my longest tour of duty in the park. Most of the experience was overwhelmingly positive. I still have a love of "western" and Native American culture. There were some negatives, and one in particular that I don't talk about much. But overall, I came back from Yellowstone in 2002 a different person than when I left. It showed, when I was willing to stop floundering around in my life, start tacking some of the tough decisions and taking responsibility for myself. That next year I really turned things around. Got things right with school, started living [more] on my own, and got a real job.

It was that real job that kept me from returning to Yellowstone in 2003. I had to make a choice - quit my job in Auburn and go to Yellowstone, with no guarantee of what would be waiting when I returned in the Fall, or work through the summer, stay in school and be a semester closer to graduating.

The me prior to 2002 would have hit the road without a second through. The me of 2003 did't. The me of 2003 stayed in Auburn, worked, studied and continued pulling myself out of the tailspin I'd been in. But, even then, I knew I'd probably never go back. The changed me sacrificed any chance to "do it again" because of what I learned about myself.

I try not to dwell on "other paths," but, seeing my cousin's photographs makes me wonder what that other path would have been like. I almost chose that path again in early 2005 when I couldn't find a job out of Auburn. But, just as I was getting my paperwork together go back and considering the possibly going to NPS seasonal law enforcement training at Sylvan, an offer appeared to go work in Huntsville. The rest, they say, is history.

And I haven't been back since.

I still miss the park. I miss the quiet and solitude. I miss the long drive to Jackson, or to Idaho Falls. I miss the wildlife - the moose, the elf and the howls of wolves. And yes, I even miss the annoying tourists.

Although I can't help but smile a little bit. Next time we go, I get to share some of that joy with my daughter.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
It weirds me out a bit to think about how long, and yet how fast another 10 year marker has gone by.

Ten years ago, right now, I was driving across Nebraska. I had left a Days Inn in Lincoln and was heading for Rawlins, Wyoming. In Rawlins, I would spend the night before heading up US-287 towards my final destination: Yellowstone National Park.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
On this day, ten years ago, I created an account on a site called TigreJournals, which was run by a friend of mine. But I needed to test it. So I created a post called "Test" with the content of "The cheese is good today." That post is here.

"The cheese is good today." It was an in-joke that, hell, even people on the site wouldn't get. It goes back to my freshman fall at Auburn, when I was in the Intro to Engineering course. We made heavy use of the WebCT system, and there was a semester long running thread on the WebCT discussion boards about how good cheese was. Being that there were like 100+ people in this class, it got stupid long after awhile. Even the professor got in on the fun. He'd even say things in class like "are we going to actually discuss this, or just talk about cheese."

My blogging experiences actually go back further than that, to Open Diary, where I kept my first few blogs. I wish I could still go access those, but they've long since been purged. Over the years, I've moved. From TigreJournals to LiveJournal and, most recently, to Dreamwidth. But all the data is here. Ten years of crazy life experiences, from a 20 year old college sophomore to a 30 year old married engineer, my blog documents the ride that was my twenties.

Auburn Trip

Oct. 4th, 2010 09:45 am
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)

Me, in front of my first dorm room - F-106 - 10 years later

Wife and I went down to Auburn to watch the Tigers destroy Louisiana-Monroe 52-3. We actually left Friday night and stayed at a Best Western in Alexander City, Alabama (about 30 minutes from Auburn), driving the rest of the way to Auburn the next day since kickoff was at 11am in the morning!

It was a fun game to watch, such a difference from the last couple Auburn games which haven't been decided until the final minute of the game. Afterwards, we went to Momma G's in Auburn - the original. The food at the one in Huntsville is the same, but you can't beat the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, neither of us had had very much to eat all day other than a small breakfast and some popcorn at the game. While I'm a fatty and can deal, Sarah nearly passed out in the restaurant while we waited for ah our to get our food. Thankfully, the lady behind us was diabetic and gave her some sugar pills to get her blood sugar back up.

Afterwards, we drove over to Opelika to visit [livejournal.com profile] sarakazi, [livejournal.com profile] snowmew, [livejournal.com profile] ceralor and other members of the current [livejournal.com profile] auburnfurs at Sarakazi and Mirage's house. Nice place they have there, and I got to ride with Mirage in the Lotus. And yes, we did top out at over 100mph at one point. :P

Then, it was a long, boring drive back to Huntsville. We stopped outside Birmingham and ate dinner at a Dairy Queen before continuing the rest of the way back home.
kiranlightpaw: (oldschool)
In keeping with my "10 years since..." theme this year...

On this day 10 years ago, I loaded almost everything I owned into a hatchback and drove five hours and two states away, to start a new life in a town I had only visited before.

I was living with a guy I knew from my local area, and I had just gotten the car a few days before I left. It was a manual transmission, and I was still learning how to drive it. We left that afternoon because we weren't going to be able to move into the dorms until the following morning, so we decided to leave and stay at a hotel. I remember having real fun trying to master the manual transmission in stop-and-go traffic on the downtown connector in Atlanta. We ended up staying in a hotel in LaGrange, Georgia, for the night and then, first thing the following morning, we drove to Auburn to get checked in. I was so excited!

The following morning, my Dad arrived from Tennessee with a few other items I'd forgotten. We went to Lowes in Opelika and bought a big rug for the room, then went about setting everything up. We also went to Kroger - the one on Dean Rd. - and he nicely bought me my first round of groceries.

And then, he left. And that was the only time I teared up slightly as the enormity of being "on my own" for the first time finally hit me. In order to get my mind off it, I hopped on my bike and biked around campus a bit. To give you an idea of what it was like then:
  • All those fancy new dorms weren't there, and there wasn't even parking in most of that area yet. Where the "Village" dorms are now was the drill field, and there was an old airplane hanger. A section of Wire Rd was a one-way street from just past Donahue to just past Roosevelt.

  • Thach Avenue ran all the way through campus, and you could drive on it all the way too.

  • Where all the parking is at the Western end of campus now was the old Village dorms. I eventually met a few people that lived back in there.
I remember biking for hours all over the campus, just taking it all in. I eventually ended up eating at Milos (where the Chik-Fil-A is now) because the Student Union wasn't open yet.

After all the time and all the dreaming, this was it! I was here!

That night I got my computer hooked up. Remember when I fired up Napster - yup, the good ol' days of Napster - and being massively shocked when an MP3 downloaded in about 10 seconds. I had gone from a "high-speed" ISDN line at home to the University's stupid-fast WAN. Hell, I'm just now getting back to the speeds I could draw when I lived on campus.

I remember that MP3 was "Desert Rose" by Sting, because I had heard it in the car while driving down and made a mental note to download it.

One of my biggest regrets from my years prior to about 2002 or 2003 is that I didn't take nearly enough pictures. I wish I had taken a lot more, frankly, because I love looking at the memories. Here's a handful of shots that I do have from those first few weeks.

Read more... )

It's amazing I can remember everything about that day. The sights, the smells, the sounds. I remember what I was wearing and everything that I did. Hell, it still feels like it just happened, and I have such a hard time realizing that it has really been a decade since that warm summer day.

The next four years would take me places I never thought I'd go, and I'd meet people I never thought I'd meet. I'd go from being a nerdy kid to a mature (well, mostly) functioning adult over that wild period. But, for me, this is where it all started. My first step into the bigger world.
kiranlightpaw: kiran_likeshine (Default)
As of today, it has been exactly 10 years since I graduated from high school.

One of the big regrets I have is that I wasn't actively "blogging" at the time, nor did I bother to write much beyond the scraps that I've been able to recover. My LiveJournal only goes back to Christmas of 2001, so I'm missing high school, the "final summer" and that first year and a half of college from my writings. Unfortunately, those very memories are beginning to fade. I really wish I still had some of that early stuff around, to provide more insight into my thought processes at the time.

I do, however, still remember my graduation day. All my family was in town to watch me walk across the stage. I graduated from a huge high school, and there were more than 250 people in my graduating class. But, being one of a number is not necessarily a bad thing.

That night, I went to this "project graduation" thing - basically a big party thrown by the school PTA to give the kids something safe to do instead of drink. Frankly, I'd've rather gone home, talk to Mark, and play on the computer, but my Mom made me go. Still, it wasn't all bad - they had a "casino" set up, where all the games were rigged to always award us, and I won enough free meal coupons at Burger King and McDonalds to give me free meals for the rest of the summer. These would come in handy while I was at TCT.

OMFG TMFI! )

Wow. You know, I really can't believe that's where I was, and that's who I was, ten years ago. It doesn't even seem real anymore. Like that was a different life, and I was a different person.

So what has the intervening 10 years been like?

"A long strange trip" wouldn't even begin to summarize what it's been like - and many of you have been here to witness it with me. Going from being an 18 year old punk kid, away from home for the first time, through all the madness that was my years at Auburn, to my first tentative steps into the real world, to where I find myself now.
"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be."

- Douglas Adams

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Kiran Lightpaw

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