It is hard to imagine that I am on the cusp of 30 years out of High School, but the facts are that on the evening of May 19, 1982, some 120 young men and young women sat on a stage in an auditorium in Afton, WY that doesn’t exist today. I was one of those young men. It seems like it was just the other day when my classmates (including my future bride) and I were mulling around in the Junior High (now the District Offices), fidgeting with our caps and gowns. We were talking in celebratory tones, excited about the opportunities that certainly awaited us; we were herded to where we were supposed to be by Mrs. Rose Wray. We were naïve and young, but we made up for those weaknesses with the enthusiasm of youth, the world was our oyster and we were ready to be out on our own. We had the world by the tail and we weren’t going to let go. We stood at the threshold of the future that we have spent the past 30 years living. My how time flies! I know that I never imagined the extent and breadth of this journey. In the vernacular of our day: What a Trip!
I know that some of you will say that “trip” was so not the 1980s, that it was the 1960s and 1970s, however, I think that I should remind the reader that we are talking about Star Valley, WY. The world has always been and still is just a little out of synch with Star Valley. Star Valley is one of those kinds of places where the pace is a little slower and the people haven’t really tried to be something that they aren’t. The place is really just a little like Mayberry, more so then but it is still true even today. Growing up we hated that Star Valley was so out of touch, but today we are quite happy that we grew up there instead of someplace more in synch with the rest of the world. In 1982 our vocabulary still had the terms, groovy, trippin’, and far out. Our connection to what the world was doing was Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 that we listened to on KFI AM640 out of Los Angeles when we could get the signal in the evenings. We were in love with satellite stations MTV (when it still played music videos) and VH1. The music was our connection with the rest of America.
The trip to where I am today isn’t what I expected so many years ago, I am sure that my classmates would agree. I have not had many opportunities to meet with my classmates over the years. In fact, in the past 30 years, I have lived in Star Valley for just 6 months in the 80’s, 3 months in the 90s, about 4 years in the 00’s, just 1 year in the 10s so far as I am now living in China. I know that I have classmates that have lived there even less than I have.
My wife and I have only made it to one of class reunions in these past 30 years. We missed our 5 year reunion in 1987. I was just wrapping up the most challenging training experience of my life when that reunion was happening. I was just weeks away from graduating from the US Navy’s Nuclear Power School in Orlando, FL and I was cramming for my finals in reactor theory, reactor chemistry, reactor physics, and reactor design principles and couldn’t get away. We missed our 10 year reunion in 1992 because I was stationed at Pearl Harbor on the USS Cavalla (SSN684). I had decided that I was getting out of the Navy and only had 6 months left to my EAOS (expiration of active obligated service). It didn’t make any sense to fly my little family of 6 to the mainland for a little vacation so close to being able to move there. We made it to the 20 year reunion in 2002. We drove straight through from Pine Bluff, AR to get there, 25 hours on the road, trading off drivers sleeping in the back seat when not driving. As we approached this year’s event it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. Nobody was advertising when or where it was going to be and no one was indicating they were in charge.
Now, I am in China, and LaDawna and I had planned ever since we knew we were going to be in China that we would be going home to Star Valley in the last few weeks of July and first few weeks of August. This is also typically when class reunions are held in Star Valley because it corresponds with one of the major events, the Lincoln County Fair, yes I know that sounds a little like “red neck”. We not only enjoy the additional activities that go with having the fair in town, but we really like the weather during that time in Star Valley. We love the non-winter periods in Star Valley, truth be told we love winter too, but it is just way too long in Star Valley. I don’t like that winter lass until June (at least it seems that when with the sporadic snow storms we get all spring long). Winter should give way to spring in March like the calendar says it is supposed to. Snow storms in April and May make me more than just a little tired of winter.
With no one volunteering to make it happen I finally just decided that I would take the bull by the horns and be in charge of the reunion for the 30 year reunion. I know that I have friends that will tell me I learned nothing from the Navy, because I never learned that NAVY is really an acronym: N is for Never, A is Again, V is for Volunteer, and Y is for Yourself; NEVER AGAIN VOLUNTEER YOURSELF. But just like in the Navy sometimes we do things that don’t make much sense as an individual that really are for the greater good of others; I am hoping that this whole reunion thing is going to be one of those times. There were a number of people asking about it on the social forums that we share and no one could decide who was in charge. It is now settled, I am. I am glad that there have been so many willing to take on tasks that there is just no way we can handle from here in China. We are pretty much on the other side of the world and our day is their night. It is nice to have help from people that actually want to be involved.
I unfortunately have not really learned how to manage without making it seem like it was a project. I think that is one of the reasons that I do not like to work in an environment that can’t be projectized in the vernacular of my profession. I don’t seem to enjoy the work in an operational environment; I am driven crazy by the monotony that I perceive in the daily operations that keep things going. I live for the opportunity that exists in projects. I have to constantly be concerned with the potential problem of creating a crisis just for the sake of resolving it. I am glad that the whole concept of a reunion fits nicely into the project parameters; it has a starting point and a completion milestone that I have to meet. I can make myself believe that I understand what is wanted by my “clients” and I hope that I know them well enough to provide a finished product that makes a reunion memorable.
My Project Management training easily overwhelms everything else I have ever learned, I still remember much of the other subjects I have learned, but mentally I am a hard wired Project Manager. I think sometimes that it is a genetic thing for me. Everything I do is treated like a project anymore, I have to build a schedule and assign leads to tasks, even when it doesn’t really make that much difference. My mind tells me it makes a difference, so I do it that way. My apologies to those that don’t think like I care about their way to solve a problem, my way may not be their way, their way might work just as well as mine, but I typically have a hard time admitting that, and I am not really very interested in trying another way; particularly if I have had success using my approach. I have been told by others (corporate types assigned to “grow” me) that I might come off sounding like a snob or uncaring because of how I approach these kinds of tasks. (I imagine that many of my classmates from their experiences will vouch for those corporate types that I was snobbish or uncaring, I hope that they can understand now, as I do, that it wasn’t personal and it never was about feeling superior or uncaring.) In that respect this reunion task will really stretch me. I care about the people that I am working with to make this successful, more than I care to admit really. These people are part of the core fabric that made me the person I am today; that makes the whole project management approach just a little different for me on this little project.
I have evaluated the people that have been most “vocal” about what they think and how involved they seem to be and have used that involvement to determine that they are most likely willing help with that particular part of the reunion. In some cases, I have identified a need or issue that needs some attention and have reached out to get the right person (based on what I perceive or know about them) to take the lead on those key aspects. I think that we have the right people on the team, now it is my chance to see if we can make a reunion that those in attendance will remember, and those that didn’t attend wish that they had. So what are we planning? Well, stay tuned I am sure that there is a lot to be learned over the next few months. I am certain to share some of that with you.