(On the plane) Day one...What to expect? Unknown. Mom is crying already. Dad isn't but he is gracious. Donna, crying too. Funny how things work out. I was cracking forwards' skulls and robbing gappers a year ago. Now I'm off to become a performer. I thought this day would never come. Haven't met anyone yet other than Joel and Stephanie. Sitting next to a nice man from Portland, OR. If only George Carlin were sitting next to me now. We're beginning the announcements. This is gonna be funny. 11:35am and the plane is going to take off soon. No butterflies. Amazing. Everybody's faces are flashing through my mind......Jon, Donna, Watterson's, Gemmells, Kenny. Not only am I on a plane that is taking off. I'm on a plane where a dozen New England kids lives are taking off. I am strengthening as a person. My confidence is going to increase....11:50 We're taking off!
Ten years ago today I wrote those words in a little spiral journal with the title "A Traverler's Notebook" written on the cover. I was about to fly to Denver to join Up with People, the international performance group that traveled the world. I was 18 years old.
The next 12 months would prove to be life changing. I participated in countless hours of community service, lived with 60 or so random families in a dozen countries and performed on stage for thousands.
More than that, I found self respect and confidence. Someone who had always been hiding behind a metaphorical mask for 18 years, jumped out into the spotlight and took advantage of one of the most unique and strange opportunities ever thrown at an individual....
"Hey Ry, let me introduce you to 130 people from 25 countries. 125 people from 25 countries, this is Ryan....Oh by the way, Ry, you won't see your family for a looooong time. You'll live in strange homes, eat strange food, be forced to sing and dance and perform....No pressure, Good luck!"
It's hard to remember if I was more scared or excited. I think it was a mixture of both. But for some reason, the fear never held me back. I landed in Denver with an open mind, ready to accept whatever was thrown at me. I knew I could be whoever I wanted to be.
And that is one thing about Up with People that I will always appreciate and remember; Nobody there was ever going to tell me I wasn't good enough or that I wasn't talented enough. I had 130 family members for 12 months of my life who supported me through the fun times and the challenging ones.
At the end of my tour, sitting in some random room in France, our staff members told us, "Ten years from now, you'll look back on the year 2000 as the most Extraordinary year of your lives."
Well, they weren't lying. I've had some great years since then, but nothing will ever compare to the year 2000. It would be impossible to match.
With 10 years already gone in the blink of an eye. I'd like to to say to my family who supported me doing something completely out of character, and also to my cast mates from around the world who helped me find my voice, Thank You.