We usually have little idea, immediately, how significant a moment is.
The first time I became aware of Armenia, I was listening to an announcement during a school assembly in 10th or 11th grade.
A younger student stood up and spoke briefly about the yearly anniversary of the Armemian Genocide.
I don’t remember what he said, though in hindsight, I can guess.
At the time, his words barely registered. I wasn’t sure whether ‘Armenian’ was a race, nationality, or religion.
If anything, I just thought, Ah, this sucks for the guy. He probably has to get up and do this every year.
I didn’t give Armenia a second thought.
A few years later, on my first day of college, I met a girl and her mother.
It was the girl’s first day, too. She was assigned to a room across the hall from me, on the fourth floor of the dorm.
The mom asked if I could help carry some bags and boxes upstairs.
No worries, I figured. It would give me something to do.
Easy way to meet a girl anyway.
The girl and her mom were Armenian. The mom spoke about the country and its people. She mentioned the genocide.
I listened politely, finished helping, and moved on with the rest of my day.
All the things I thought were important that day – where I was attending college, what classes I would take first semester, whether I would play soccer for the college – none of it turned out to be remotely as consequential as what had just happened. I had just met my wife.
Oh, Armenian… interesting… no problem … happy to help.
So now here I am, 31 years later, sitting on a plane waiting to take off from Yerevan, Armenia. I’m heading home to Los Angeles. The trip will take roughly 17 hours.
I know plenty about the country now. I have traveled here, made friends here, and dropped off my daughter for a 3-week youth program.
I even speak the language, albeit badly.
For my wife, Armenian culture and heritage are hugely important.
And my daughter, 15, has always gravitated toward Armenian people, stories, and experiences.
So I’m hauling luggage again, but this time for my daughter. And this time in Armenia.
My own impressions of the country aren’t unique or important. As thousands of travelers before me have noted, it’s an ancient place with stunning vistas, fascinating artifacts, and many kind people who are willing – excited, actually – to show you around.
The place can be a pain in the ass, too, in the same way that any faraway, less developed country can be (or any country, for that matter).
But mostly, I am just startled, looking back, at the total … nothingness of those first, throwaway moments.
A school announcement.
Nothing is happening.
Except, of course, it is.
I guess if I had paid closer attention, I might have heard the first faint whispers of what life had in store for me. It probably would have saved me some time and heartache and needless wandering around.
Instead, I was just bumbling along, worrying about all the other stuff I wound up not giving a shit about.
God only knows what hidden, pivotal moments I am traipsing past today, heedless.
Time will tell, I guess.