I graduated from high school in 1988, which was 34 years ago. Has it really been that long? So, a discussion recently came up about students who died at my high school. I recalled that three kids died in my senior year. To aid my recall, I looked through my yearbook dedication page, and it turns out… My memory was all wrong. Well, not quite.
Three kids died the year before, and nobody died in my senior year. Two kids hit a bus on their way to school, and a third died in a late-night car accident. One of their relatives was in my English class, but I did not know him. Their names were in the 1987 yearbook, along with a picture for each and a heartwarming message from friends or family.
The kids looked so young and alive, just like all the other yearbook pictures. These positive, outgoing images got me thinking about all the events the three kids missed since 1987. So, I listed a few.
Bad: 911, Gulf wars, Ukraine war, Tiananmen Square massacre, Rodney King, George Floyd, hurricane Katrina, Tohoku (in Japan) earthquake/tsunami, the opioid epidemic, Cider fire, spam/robocalls, Honey Boo Boo, and covid 19.
Good: The fall of the Soviet Union, Y2K celebration, the rise of the internet (Facebook, YouTube, eBay, Google, Wikipedia, MP3 music), the cell phone revolution (apps, maps, text, FaceTime, iPhone, Pokémon Go, emojis), electric cars that work, houses with solar panels, working from home, The Matrix, reality television, cutting the cord (cable/phone), South Park, Gangnam Style, and the ice bucket challenge.
Good/Bad: Brexit, Kardashians, Royal Family, bitcoins, Linux, and legalized marijuana.
And then there is my life. I got married, have a wonderful daughter, met great people, and had amazing experiences. Unfortunately, I also had surgery, a few poor relationships, people I cared about passed away, and I failed five times to start a business.
Those three kids did not get to experience any events like I listed. But what does this have to do with writing? Let’s consider the most minor topic, cutting the telephone cord. One (typical) day, I ended the telephone service, stopped paying a monthly bill, and donated my telephone to Goodwill. I thought little about this mundane moment other than the effort to call the phone company and tell them to stop billing me.
This uneventful act represented the end of a tremendous era, starting with the invention of the telephone. “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” And just like that, I abandoned this fantastic technology that spanned the globe and connected billions of homes. I could have never predicted that one day, I would voluntarily give up a “home telephone.”
As I wrote this blog, I understood that I filled my mundane life with epic adventures. Unfortunately, those three kids did not get to “cut the cord.” As I looked at their pictures, I wanted to say, “See, this is what you missed. You should have taken driving more seriously.” Something to think about next time I am behind the wheel.
This topic has become all too familiar to my four blog readers, “But what does this have to do with writing?” I am glad you asked. Since 1987, a lot has happened, and most events were not predictable. Even the inventors of the cell phone would not have predicted in their wildest dreams that so many people would “cut the cord.”
However, there is a flip side. Where is my flying car? All future stories have flying cars. Zipping around from city to city without accidents. And then there are the big misses. Not a lot of time travel or flying off to distant planets going on these days. It would seem like fiction writers got a lot wrong.
It is challenging to carve out a space for fiction in this modern world, and nearly impossible to predict the future. Do we really need another WWII book, one about a kid who goes to magic school or “person from the wrong side of town falling in love,” the ten secrets of X, hardcore lust with a vulgar picture on the cover, or a kid's book written by somebody famous?
This brings me back to those three kids. I wonder if they would have become authors, fighter pilots, invented an app, or done something fantastic with their lives. Would they like to read my books? I would have never predicted that I would become a fiction author or even a blogger. Heck, in 1987, the term “blog” did not exist.
I took one last look at those kids’ pictures before ending this blog. We were so young and full of life in our senior year of high school. The things that mattered so much have so little meaning now. I spent so much effort picking out a backpack. However, these three kids can still teach us a lesson. Drive safe, my four blog readers.
You’re the best -Bill
December 14, 2022
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