It happened again, the Navy sent me to Newport, Rhode Island. They’ve been doing that every 3-5 years since I was commissioned. Those of you who have visited Newport will likely agree that it is an absolutely beautiful place. But when we reflect on our stay, each of us will undoubtedly remember Newport for different reasons. It may be the sailing, the mansions, the food, the history, or the studying at the various Navy colleges and training commands. Personally, I have memories of all of that, which is precisely why I consider orders to Newport a very fortunate set of circumstances.
The purpose of my trip last month was to attend the Major Command Course in preparation for my next assignment. It was a great opportunity to reunite with old Shipmates, meet new ones, think deeply about leadership and reacquaint myself with the Navy after three years working at a joint command. It was all of that and more. The “more” was (1) a chance to remind my body how much I missed dedicating a bigger part of my day to physical exercise and (2) remembering. There was plenty of time for “more” and I wanted to make extra time to remember.
I enjoy remembering; I enjoy the act of retrieving events and information deep within my noggin. The truth is that doing so seems to be more difficult with each passing year. I am not implying a case of early-onset Alzheimer’s (an awful disease), merely that as life goes on the accumulation of new experiences and therefore memories brings the new to the forefront and pushes older memories and long-ago accumulated knowledge once easy to recall to the side. It turns out that Newport is an especially great place for me to remember and reflect on my past while pondering the future. Though I did a little of that each day I was there, I deliberately dedicated a few extra hours prior to heading to the airport to remembering. I drove by the house we once called home, the restaurants we had frequented, the hospital where my son was born, the mansions by which we often walked, the historic downtown area, and of course the Newport Creamery and my favorite bookstore. I was amazed by the flood of detailed memories that were suddenly so easy to recall. I saw visions of my newborn son, spontaneously chuckled at the naivete I unknowingly had during my first visit many years ago, and felt a sense of gratitude for all that has transpired over the years sandwiched between visits to Newport.
I started that drive because I was curious to see how much had changed. As I explored more and more, I was amazed by how much remained the same. Sure, there were some new storefronts replacing the old, some areas of town that had clearly been neglected, and a few signs of impressive progress. But all in all, Newport had not changed that much. It most certainly wasn’t exactly as it was when I last visited, but neither was I. As I drove over the Newport/Pell Bridge and toward T.F. Green Airport to catch my plane, I came to grips with the fact that the Navy had sent me to Newport to remember. To remember who I was, to reflect on who I am, and to help equip me to further develop myself. Sure, the Navy sent me to Newport for professional development, but personal development is an implied constant, with some environments being far more conducive to that task than others. Come to think of it, I think that is why so many people (inside and outside the Navy) flock to Newport each summer. A city whose rich history and unique geography provides all who visit the opportunity to remember.
- How often do you remember?
- Where do you do your best remembering?
- What do you hope does/doesn’t change?