December 19th, 2009

tree in snow

Gone but not entirely forgotten

People are time machines. We each travel in time. When we get up in the morning, the afternoon is the future, and sure enough, in a few hours we arrive there.

Of course, time travel is more impressive when expressed in terms of a lifetime. I am a Baby Boomer, born in the post-WWII generation. My dad was in the Navy, so we moved a lot— every two or three years. So, I started my life in the mid-20th Century and now I find myself here in the first decade of the 21st. My kids were born in the 80's (the younger one barely made it, 1989). They are now both in their 20's (the younger one again, barely).

This got me thinking how different their life is now than mine was at their ages. Aside from not being Navy brats and living their whole lives in one area (the younger one in the same house her whole life), their mother (that's me) worked outside the home the whole time they were growing up; they both went to home day care until they were about four, and then to a day care center. My mom never held a paying job until shortly before my parents divorced (when I was in my 20's). I was typical of my generation, and so are they. Times were so different then! I can remember looking at want ads in the newspaper; under the heading "Help Wanted—Male" it would say "Accountant." Think of that! And even though they might not say "No blacks," race discrimination was both rampant and blatant. I often went to all-white or almost-all-white schools.

Aside from social and legal differences, technology is radically different. I didn't use a computer until I was in my 30's. That's because mostly there weren't any. My kids both own laptops. When I was growing up, if you were meeting someone, you had to be sure you had a exact time and place or you would miss each other. Now you just text your location to the other person, who might well use GPS to find you.

And yet some things are the same. Cars are very different— smaller, more fuel efficient, more expensive, more likely to be foreign-made— but driving a car still bestows a level of freedom not found with public transportation. And reading a book, even if it happens via an eReader instead of a paper book, is still very much the same experience it was when I was young. That's one reason I love reading. It has stayed the same over my lifetime.

I remember the old days, but except for the people I have lost, I don't think I really miss them. The future holds new choices, new opportunities, new challenges; the past holds only memories. I prefer the future.

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