I got to hang out with one of my friends who I otherwise rarely see. He is the one in the JET program, teaching English in Japan. A mutual friend is getting married, so he flew back for the wedding. I haven't seen him since he left for Japan, and even before then we hadn't spent much time together. Back in high school we used to be closer, but four years of college left their mark.
My friend is a man of incredible potential. He has an astonishing intellect, but what I have always regarded most highly is his enthusiasm. Now, I find enthusiasm a troubling thing. I do not like to just "dive in." I am a reasoned man, cautious to a certain degree perhaps, but I just like to proceed secure in the knowledge that I have seen as many of the angles as I can. His is a deep, abiding interest, an ardor that drives him to excel and eventually becomes all consuming. I admire his ability to devote himself to a certain subject or field of study, even as I find the singlemindedness that results disturbing and deleterious.
He has taken the opportunity JET provided him, and embraced the foriegn completely. He speaks Japanese with, what to my ears, is astonishing ease. If perhaps he lacks the polish of a native speaker, he is certainly approaching fluency. In some ways this, and not high school or college, will prove his defining experience, and it is a chance I can only consider abstractly.
Yesterday we went out to dinner with the rest of his family. Given that he has only ten days here, his time is leveraged pretty much completely, so it was good to get to hang out for a while. Of all the people I know from high school, he has changed the least, and there is some comfort in that. We picked up very easily, right where we had left off. We were always fast friends, mutual interests and dislikes worked to form a broad if, in some ways, comparatively shallow bond. His arrival simply underscores the general feeling of discontent I've been experiencing as a result of the disturbing self-admission that my old friendships are, if not dead, substantially different than I remember them. Still, I am encouraged by the ease with which we fell into old routines, and hopefully the future will allow for a renewal of old relationships.
The wedding is this Saturday, after which he'll be going back to Japan. Happy trails.