For purposes of this post, I'm simply going to refer to her as "L."
When I see L, I am reminded of who I once hoped I would be. I see in her the good possible in all of humanity and she makes me believe that maybe there is hope for the future. I look at her and see an outgoing, lovable human who stands up for what is right, voices her opinion when it is needed and isn't afraid to go against the majority when the occasion calls for it.
L is all I hoped I would be but never actually became.
I was once a lot like L, concerned and extremely involved with politics (I wanted to be a political speech writer at one point), believing that my career choice could make a difference to others, hoping that if I could get others excited about a particular cause our combined voices would be able to make change actually happen. Somewhere along the way though, I lost that L-drive.
Maybe it's age or time or the harsh realities when one realizes that it is often far more difficult to make true and lasting difference in the world. Maybe I've become hardened over the years. Maybe personal gain or wants became more important than humanitarian issues. I honestly don't know where or why it changed, but it did.
As a millennial, L does not remember a time without a connection to the internet nor has she lacked a cell phone at the ready. Her first year of life was the same year I began my first year of college (the first round anyway). It was also the same year I traded in my word processor for an actual computer (which cost a small fortune and was horribly slow by today's standards). I held on to that computer for 10 years, at which point I met Sam who was highly disturbed that I was attempting to use this beast of a machine to get online. It took 15-20 minutes to connect to the internet (no lie), and often somewhere in the process it would disconnect from the phone line, but I was patient enough to wait and didn't have the funds to purchase something new so I made it work.
Technology that may have begun in generation x-ers' youth has become something entirely different to the next generation. It has morphed, become more usable for the masses, and connected people easily across countries and continents. In 1985, I may have had a Commodore 64 (that my father picked up second hand at a yard sale) and a joystick for electronic games, but today we can send tweets instantly to anyone and email any time day or night.
I have no doubt that many of those born under the millennial designation don't identify with some things of my youth or the comments I find myself making, just as I didn't understand some of the occurrences and oddities of my baby boomer parent's generation. I suppose it's simply the marching of time.
For me, there are days when I miss having a landline, a house phone. Yes, people still have these, but even my 93 year old neighbor gave me her cell phone number and email address when we exchanged contact information in case of emergency. Ninety-three year old neighbor... a woman who grew up listening to radio, not watching a television with a handful of channels or viewing Hulu or Netflix online as many do today.
I don't dislike technology and I don't mean to sound like a stodgy old fogey (a phrase my father would've used), but I sometimes wonder where technology is taking our world. Modern technology has brought a lot of good, but sometimes I wonder where it ends? Do we begin to create humans who cannot function or do anything for him/herself, or does the technology create a better human - one that can take causes globally more easily?
My friend L is a bright young woman. I see her use what is at her disposal as a tool for sharing information and viewpoints. She seems to recognize that there is a benefit to being in the world and paying attention to her surroundings, but still using technology to her advantage. In fact, even as I have been typing this she was informed (via an update through Chrome, as she shared with me) that she was accepted to her top choice grad program.
When I go about my days though, I can't help but wonder if everyone has this same discernment as L. As I watch people in crosswalks staring at their phones, texting or typing away, oblivious to their surroundings, view motorists doing the same while in motion, or watch families at a meal in a restaurant not communicating with each other, but instead keeping eyes glued to their phones, I can't help but recognize that not everything is positive that comes from our ability to be constantly connected.
What is interesting to me in all of this is that bicycles have survived across generations. They may not have been used in the same ways, but everyone from my aging neighbor to my friend L has had experiences with a bicycle. For some, the bicycle has been a symbol of freedom and choice, for others it represented fun or fond memories. The individual may have used a bicycle to travel across the country or perhaps to meet up with a friend or to get to a corner grocer.
Bicycles have changed over time, but not drastically so. My neighbor doesn't see my bicycles and ask me what they are or request a lesson on how to use them because they are the same basic machines she has known her entire life. No one today would see a bicycle from 1900 and wonder what it is; a bicycle is easily identified and usable, regardless of its year of manufacture. There are differences, but the fundamentals are similar enough to permit use.
|My younger brother riding his first mountain bike|
Maybe the bicycle has the power to bridge generations, and maybe technology won't be the ruin of humanity. Perhaps. Like my friend L, there may well be more individuals than sometimes seems obvious who appreciate simplicity, and are able to use technology appropriately and usefully without becoming the fulfillment of Idiocracy. Maybe our world is just doing what it does -- growing, changing, evolving. I don't know that I can ever recover my youthful hope of making a difference in the world, but I am glad to see that it does still exist in others. I hold on to faith that the world's changes are for the betterment of people and not to our detriment, and I hope that my (and your) lifetime is always full of joy and the ability to create memories on a bicycle.