Credit: Gary Thill

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Remember being 20? For me it was (gulp) nearly 20 years ago. I was a year away from college graduation, and couldn?t wait to make my mark on the world. I had big ideas. I was going places. And I did. Only, as is so often the case, it wasn?t quite where I expected.

Looking back on it now, it?s laughable to think how naive and unrealistic some of those ideas and plans were. (Here?s one of the most bizarre: I was never going to use a credit card.) Back then I was more of an idealist. The years have tempered that idealism with a healthy dose of realism. Still, I?ve kept my core values.

On this, Aquatics International?s 20th anniversary, I can?t help but think back to that 20-year-old me and how alike he is to this magazine and this industry. I include the industry in that comparison because just as Aquatics has grown over the years, so has the modern world of aquatics.

Back in 1988, when the first issue of Aquatics (it was just a single name then) rolled off the press, that world was a very different place. A whole new industry segment that incorporated water, slides and theme park elements was just beginning to take shape. Recreational water illnesses, while no doubt in existence, hadn?t become fodder for morning talk shows.

When the Aquatics staff started thinking about everything that has changed, it sparked the idea for this issue: 20 years/20 developments.

So take a walk down memory lane with us and ponder the 20 most important developments of the past 20 years. As a wise person once said, ?You can only know where you?re going if you know where you?ve been.?

Where are we going? It?s a question inevitably inspired by a milestone birthday. And we?ve tried to answer it with our ?Next 20 Years? sidebars throughout this issue.

Rather than getting caught up in our future, it may be more instructive to consider our present. It?s important to remember, on our 20th birthday, that we are a young magazine and an equally young industry. As such, we are full of enthusiasm, idealism and, yes, a little naivete. These qualities can take us far. Indeed, they are fueling the growth of this industry today, despite a lumbering economy and a growing number of health threats. The passion of aquatics professionals for the water and swimming is another 20-year-old trait that serves this industry so well.

The other side of being 20 is that as relative youngsters, we?re still bound to make mistakes. We?re likely to let our idealism and passion for what could be get in the way of more realistic solutions for what is. Our naivete can blind us to the hard-edged lessons that experience teaches. Getting stuck on big ideas can stop us from taking the simple, small steps we need to make real change happen. We may think we know everything, but the real world is very different place than the insular world we?ve been inhabiting. In short, we need to grow up. And we will.

I just hope as the years pass and we mature, we can look back at that 20-year-old us and say that we may be older and wiser, but we haven?t lost the core values that made us who we are today, and who we will become tomorrow.