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Completing the Loop

Written by Robin on Saturday, August 2, 2008
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This past weekend I completed a loop – a long one, a 15 year old one. And it happened by pure luck, and pure chance. This is a long post, and if you already know what I’m talking about, you really need to read on. If you don’t, then get some coffee and enjoy the view deeper than usual into my personal life. And if Cast E-93 means anything to you, this is important.

I was 19 years old, just a kid, when I travelled with a group of nearly 150 people from something like 23 countries, through many of the United States, and at least 7 northern European countries. We banded together in Tucson, Arizona in January 1993, and said our goodbyes 12 months later in Norway, just months before the Lillehammer winter Olympics. We had an extremely intense year performing a demanding show three to five times per week, constantly travelling to new towns, volunteering for community service everywhere we went, staying at generous strangers houses, and getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night, all year long. We did everything from performing for the King of the Belgians, to teaching self confidence tools to the elementary students in the inner cities of Los Angeles, where only a year before the communities had burned during the Rodney King riots. It was an incredible growing experience, and the cast of 150 came to rely on each other for our sanity, health, support, and really, our livelihood.

Then Christmas time came, and it was over. I went home shellshocked, wondering what it had all been, and what I was supposed to do next. And slowly, I got on with my life without really looking back.

There’s always been a little pain inside me when I remember the UWP year, an empty hole that needs filling. When you’re on the road you meet a lot of people. I learned to love and care for a stranger in minutes, as if I knew them my whole life, then forget them the next day and move on to someone new. It seemed pointless to write, to stay in contact – there was a whole world of people, and I only had so much energy to give. I just had to keep letting go. I felt like every place I went was Another Brick in the Wall.

So I put the year somewhere on the backburner, as far back in my memory as I could. I knew it changed me, and helped make me into who I am today. But I would only accept that as a fact, without giving the credit where it was due.

Robin and Dean at the La Paloma Resort in Tucson.And then last week I received an email from an old cast member, Dean, who had stumbled upon this website. He knew we were on our way through the USA, and that he’d be in L.A. until Thursday, and then he’d be at the reunion.

We weren’t going through L.A., instead of the I-5 we took the I-85 through … hold on … the reunion? What reunion? I looked back through my emails, and found an entire thread, neatly auto-archived away, with all the details. I had thought we would be in Costa Rica by now, and there was no point in thinking about attending. But we had a few setbacks, and we were delayed, and well, here we were in Utah, 2 weeks late.

It was our 15 year cast reunion, where we would get together at a luxury resort and do … well I had no idea what we would do. I had no idea who was coming. I didn’t know that I wanted to see anyone. I mean, 15 years? I was 19! And what in the world could we possibly share in common, after so much time had passed. We would all be well into adulthood, with careers, families, and even second families. Would I recognize them? Would I remember names? Would they see me – would I be 19 or 34?

And the biggest question I had, Would I have to dance again?

We were in Southern Utah, and the reunion was in Tucson. My trusty navigator sat in the passenger seat and informed me that the Westin La Paloma resort was dead smack in the middle of our route to the Nogales border crossing to Mexico. I took it as a sign. I remembered I was travelling, to keep my eyes wide open, and to let that wonderful phenomenon called Opportunity do it’s thing. And besides, curiosity had got the better of me.

So it would be; we would attend the reunion. Raenelle and I did our best to reach Tuscon for Friday night, the official start date, but due to a whole series of events from highways turning to single sand tracks, lightening storms, broken wipers, broken windows, and eventually blurry-eyed exhaustion camping out in a Phoenix Walmart parking lot, we arrived mid Saturday morning.

No one knew we were coming. We parked the truck, walked into the posh resort, unshaven, sweaty, messed hair, and hot (it was near 100 deg F, and we have no A/C). Raenelle had worried that we wouldn’t know where to go, how would we find anyone, and shouldn’t we call ahead and register. I knew better, knowing it would be clear. I knew that whatever part of the cast of 150 were there, we would find each other.

Within a minute I saw Parkhill, complete with 2 gorgeous children. The first slightly stunned look. Then Torben from Denmark, then Marco from Italy, then Michael from Germany. And then some double doors opened from a conference room and we were swarmed it felt, surprise, hugs, disbelief. For a moment I was some kind of hero who had braved the impossible, yet still arrived home. And then I saw Jill, the true hero who had brought us all together, Jill who was Auto-Archived from my Inbox, Jill who had worked so hard that she had finally lost her voice.

Robins long time friends touring the truck.I remember seeing Bradley, and not recognizing him. I said something feeble like he looked more “stylish” – at the moment I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was the best I could come up with. Later, I saw him with more clarity. He had grown into his bigger than life personality, with such enormity of change that there was a healthy completeness to his whole person. And I looked around and knew it was the case for us all. We had all filled out.

We could now sit at the poolside, without the pressures of a show to perform, without that public face required for P.R., and talk, I mean really talk about who we were and what we had become. The details were interesting, but they didn’t matter. In a sense they were the same for all of us; we had travelled, gone home, grown up, and we all shared an intense excitement, appreciation, and love for life. We can hold the world to a higher standard, somehow having seen what it can do, knowing what it can be. The empowerment that goes with that knowledge is the power that turns our peers into heros, turns hope into reality, and gives us the grace to keep our eyes on the ball.

Robin, Raenelle, and Mirea.I didn’t have to dance again, but I did anyhow. My clumsy left feet made their way to the stage for 15 minutes of reunion fame. And for the first time I really and truely enjoyed dancing with my old friends. I can now give credit to that year, with a true understanding of what it gave to me. Finally, the loop is completed for me, and for the first time on this expedition, Opportunity has come through with flying colours.

If you’re an UWP Alumni, and you are considering attending a cast reunion for the first time, make the effort to attend. It will complete the year for you, 5, 10, even 30 years later.

Further Reading on South America 2008:
Comment by Dad
August 3, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

great post Robin
keep on dancing
with the world
love, Dad

Comment by Ty
August 4, 2008 @ 1:26 am

Robin, it was great seeing you again in Tucson and meeting your lovely wife. I’m now subscribed and can’t wait to get updated on your amazing adventure. It was great to see you so happy. You inspired a lot of us in Tucson to go after our dreams. Enjoy the journey!

Comment by Svenja
August 4, 2008 @ 6:47 am

I am so glad we reconnected and I think your words are just so beautiful describing our experiences – back then and today! I wish both of you more opportunities like this on your trip. Lots of Love from Germany Svenja

Comment by Bradley
August 4, 2008 @ 2:59 pm

Robin, your heartfelt reflection of the reunion is so poignant– full of clarity and wisdom. It was great seeing you and meeting Raenelle. Safe travels on your fantastic adventures! Thanks for your kind words… “stylish”… was just fine.

Comment by Sylvia
August 5, 2008 @ 10:36 am

Hey Robin, thanks for that – I treasure those moments when I get that deeper than usual view into your personal life – it’s something I never take for granted through all the poking and hair pulling 😉 Your post sent my pregnant hormonal self into tears and made me think how much I miss you…are you sure you aren’t taking a detour through Wales? Take care, love Sylv x

Comment by Michael
August 10, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

Thank you Robin. There’s nothing to add here, you said it all. How could you just know about most of my feelings and fears before the reunion. Beautifully written as well…
I’m more than glad you joined us in Tucson. It was great meeting and talking to both you and Raenelle.

All the Best for your adventure and I’ll definetely subscribe soon…

Sending vibes of happiness,
Michael from Germany

P.S.: “Will I have to dance again ?” I know exactly how that question feels…

August 11, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

[…] Michael on Completing the Loop: Thank you Robin. There’s nothing to add here, you said it all…. […]

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