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Published: March 25th 2013
Sipping champagne in business class on the last leg of a marathon trip around the world, on my way back from surprising my best friend on his wedding day, I can't help but giggle! First allow me to quickly clarify - The free upgrade to business class was by no means expected! I can only imagine that the kind Cathay Pacific agent checking me in must have genuinely felt sorry for me (or most likely thought I was insane) given the ridiculous amount of traveling for less than 24 hours in New York... Whatever the reason, I'll take it! Let this also be an official disclaimer to justify any incomprehensible writing that ensues... Even though I'm now technically back in Thailand, my head is still most likely somewhere above the Pacific ocean, and most definitely still in the clouds! Looking back at the past 3 days, it honestly feels like it was all a dream... Here's how it went down:
In the true spirit of 'conflict resolution,' I felt like I had been struggling with an internal conflict of epic magnitude for the
past few months. Once I had been admitted into this prestigious fellowship and had talked it over with my girlfriend and work, it seemed like all the pieces were in place and I would be a fool not to go through with it! Except for one thing... My best friend Paul, whom I have known for the past 2 decades, was getting married on March 2nd, right in the middle of the program. This presented a number of challenges...
For starters, in order to graduate, we are only allowed to take off a couple of days from the program - a sensible policy if you ask me, given the depth and the richness of all the topics covered in just three months. Moreover, while I am here on a generous (unpaid) leave of absence from work, a $2,000 round trip ticket would most definitely be a financial stretch! The point is, I just didn't know how I would be able to swing this. But after several rounds of discussion with Daya, my beautiful, thoughtful, sympathetic, caring and supportive girlfriend, along with the much-appreciated collective advice from a number of friends and colleagues, it became crystal clear... I simply couldn't miss my
best friend's wedding and I had to find a way to make this work. If I were to do this, which at this point, I had every intention to do so, I wanted it to be a surprise. Paul, being the pragmatic friend that he is, had already accepted that I wasn't going to be there... I knew, however, that he was genuinely upset; and though he remained composed during the many conversations we had leading up to the big day, I could definitely sense that he was disheartened even though he wouldn't say so (so as not to make me feel bad about it). It's like when your parents tell you they're not mad, they're "disappointed!"
Because I am a stubborn bastard and thanks to Paul's parents and (now wife) Allie's kind and accommodating nature, I was able to keep it as a surprise. Their concern, which is absolutely valid, was that this was Paul (and Allie)'s day and anything to derail that would add emotional stress, and if it could be avoided, then it most definitely should...I get it; but I was also steadfast in my decision to surprise him. I know Paul and this is how he would
want it. Luckily, they agreed in the end and we found a good compromise - to surprise him a few hours before the wedding, giving him enough time to process it and also giving us some an opportunity to catch up, mano y mano, before all the madness.
So I boarded my first flight at 7 pm on Friday and began my long journey over to New York City, where I finally landed around 8 am (local) on Saturday after a layover in Hong Kong followed by another in Vancouver. Going through Customs, I could feel my palms sweating; not because I was smuggling anything illegally (I actually had no luggage at all with me!) but because of the building anticipation... I was so happy to be able to do this and could not wait to see the look on Paul's face! This was also a much welcomed reunion with Daya, after 2 months - the longest period we had ever been apart for the past 3 years. I was psyched and far too excited to think about any tiredness and would
be running on pure adrenaline for the next 24 hours. I should also note that I had some 'pharmaceutical assistance' from a friend, who shall remained nameless, who gave me a couple of pills to help me sleep on the long flights over (something I never manage to do normally). Thank you...
Stepping out at Penn Station, a familiar early morning breeze filled the air and immediately took me back to a place I love and had missed more than I ever thought I would! I can't say that I've really missed the winter weather, having gotten comfortably used to the blissful tropical temperatures here, while NYC has been going through its seasonal holidays hangover. I've always thought that if you can make it through January, February and March in NYC, you'll love the city! I've chosen my time well, it seems; leaving the city exactly during those 3 months while Thailand enjoys its dry season... Ok, enough with the weather digressions.
Naturally, I was amped to get right to the hotel, which my wonderful girlfriend had so kindly organized, ensuring close proximity to
the New York Yacht Club (right across the street) - the venue where the wedding was to take place 8 hours later. Yet despite this eager, building anticipation, I decided to walk to the hotel, to take in as much of New York City as I could in such short time... Pacing through the bustling streets of midtown, any signs of weariness quickly dissipated and were transformed into pure euphoria and excitement... Who would have thought I could be this happy to breath in those cold New York City fumes?! It's funny how we don't realize how much we miss something/someone until we're away from it/her/him... However ephemeral it was, I was home! Scratch that, I wasn't actually "home" until I entered the lobby of the hotel, where my beautiful girlfriend was waiting with a welcomed cup of coffee and an even more welcomed massive embrace (the kind that builds up as a result of being apart for 2 months!) Insufficiently rewarded with only a couple of hours to ourselves, Daya and I made the most of it, relaxed and caught up as best we could, cherishing every second!
I wish I could describe the look on Paul's face when I
showed up to surprise him in his parent's hotel room! Any attempt to put it into words would be a massive exercise in futility. Let's just say that even though we have known each other for 20 years, having experienced a ton together, nothing will ever compare! 'Confused, elated, perplexed, bewildered, shocked' are just a few of the adjectives I can think of off the top of my head for now. Mix all of those together, amplify the results by a bunch and maybe we'll come closer to an adequate description. At that point, I knew it was ALL WORTH IT and I would travel another 30 hours if I needed to! Everything crystallized, especially after I heard him say: "Okay, now I can get married." Paul, I'm not sure if you're reading this, but I want you to know how meaningful those words were... I'll never forget them, nor will I EVER regret my decision to be there!
I have been giving a lot of thought, lately, to the meaning and the personal impact of friendships. I've always maintained that my close
friends are my backbone and the older I get, it seems, the more I truly appreciate these friendships. We've been discussing the concept of "UBUNTU" in class - the African notion that "I am what I am because of who we all are." The way I see it is, I exist because of you... I believe Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered the best definition in 2008 when he explained that "Ubuntu is the essence of being human. speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about the interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and whey you have this quality - Ubuntu - it spreads out, it is for the whole of humanity." So there you have it Paul, my friend - Ubuntu!
The rest of my fleeting time in the city went by far too fast, as expected; but was savored like a fine dining experience, ensuring that each course was given proper attention and each bite the proper attention... really chewing the marrow out of the day! As an added bonus, I got to surprise my other best buddy Jordan, whose wife is scheduled to deliver their first-born this week. I also got to catch up with old friends, some of whom I hadn't seen in far too long; and of course, I got to spend some quality time with Daya, whose ongoing support, love and care never cease to amaze me. UBUNTU for sure Lady Baba! The wedding was truly beautiful - an intimate affair bringing together close friends and family in one of New York's classiest institution. Standing right next to Jordan at the altar, as Paul delivered his heartfelt vows, I couldn't help but think about all the memories I have shared with both of them since the time I landed in this country over 2 decades ago. Ubuntu is an understatement boys...
And now I find myself on Bangkok's highly efficient train, linking the airport to the city, as another day draws to a close in this bustling metropolis, which doesn't seem to have missed a beat while I traveled over a dozen time zones. It really feels like it was a dream. Any hint of weariness is most definitely overshadowed by an even greater sentiment of elation and a deep ongoing appreciation and gratefulness to be surrounded by such great people in my life, all of whom define who I am and many of whom wouldn't hesitate to fly across the world for me. Would I do it again? No question!!! UBUNTU!
Tomorrow I'll wake up in my new "home" in Bangkok while Paul and Allie will rise to a new chapter in their unified lives. Congratulations! I love you both and couldn't be happier for you and for what's next... Allow me to remind you what I mentioned at the wedding... "May you continue to have love, health and wealth, but most importantly... the time to enjoy it all." And if you don't have the time, find it or MAKE IT!
It seems appropriate to conclude with the beautifully-written and eloquently-spoken words of inspiration from our good friend Preston:Written for and inspired by the wedding of Paul Stockamore and Allison Hudson, who were wed on March 2, 2013.We are born of a privileged generation in the midst of a great revolution, where all of our customs and commerce are called into question.We are among those who may choose to transcend the institutions that are thrust upon us by default, free to participate in their evolution, or assist in their destruction.We are free to keep or create successors to the traditions that brought us to this profound precipice, and free to build a new world of our own design.When two intrepid young explorers of this life, such as these, come together to make sacred the bonds of love, through the vows of marriage, a new generation is erected upon a foundation of love; and so it is appropriate, as there is no other foundation capable of sustaining the winds of change.In this moment, these two create an eternal seal, true to the ceremony and customs of times past, yet encircling the timeless and unbreakable bond of love, connecting two souls eternally as one.
In the new world being forged by the revolutions of our time, there is no longer any vacancy to harbor the illusion of separation. Such an illusion has been rendered obsolete and unwelcome, for Love, my fellow children, has arrived.
~~~With Love,Preston Pesek
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