Friday, February 14, 2014

Back to the Future

Last fall, when my parents were moving, I went out to L.A. and retrieved boxes of letters, old clothes, and a ton of weird junk I was still keeping in the closet there, including my "nature collection" which is what I called the one million tons of rocks, old branches, dried mosses and lichen and things rotten beyond the point of recognition. I also found a giant folder of my childhood and teenage writing, mostly written by hand or on my dad's electric typewriter- remember when we didn't have computers?

Among these pages of poems about dripping candles and mortality, treatises of feminist rage, and a story about what basically seems like a magical lesbian island where everyone wears roller skates, I found a draft of a "fake journal entry" I had submitted to a contest in 1990, when I was 14 years old. The assignment was to imagine you had found a page of your diary or a letter written from 2015, which by the way, is next year even though it still sounds like futuristic space alien time to me.

I did not win this contest, perhaps because, as you will soon see, my vision of the future is terribly bleak and it probably freaked the editors out so much and maybe is one of the reasons I was referred to talk to the school therapist who actually turned out to be an awesome lady named Leni Wildflower who let me beat up her couch with a tennis racket. Anyway, my entry was pretty intense and so wild to read 24 years later. I'm so curious about how other 13 year olds envisioned the future then! I certainly did not have high hopes and also, whoa, was I onto something about the future water and oil crisis! How scared I must have been at this time to write something so desolate. It makes me think about kids coming up in this time, when climate change is even more of a reality, and how I can support them. On this full moon, I'm holding the uncertain predicament of our planet and thinking about how vulnerable it is to be alive.
Here it is in all it's imagined diary entry from the future written by me at the tender age of 13 or 14.

With love,

April 8, 2015

Dear Diary, 

I can't believe I have been keeping a journal since the 7th grade! So much has changed. I used to actually write in my journals with a pen on paper, and now I speak into a microphone I wear around my head and it prints out on a screen. A carpool driver used to take me to school, but now we travel through air-tight tunnels. Oh, that's right, we used to be able to breathe the air then. Now we just look at it outside the bubble of our Vitoppidum- that is latin for LifeTown. Each Vit- that's what we call them- is a little see-through bubble with tubes connecting the other Vits. We live in a smaller one, near where Malibu used to be. Malibu was a beach when I grew up, but they closed it because the pollution was so bad. The only water my children know is the one bottle we get each week. That's all we get for drinking and cooking. Instead of taking showers, we clean ourselves with a method kind of like dry cleaning with a powder made from ground up seashells and we brush our teeth with that too. 

I haven't seen a plant, well a real one, since I was 17, in 1994, when I graduated from high school. That was our cut off date. See, the Vits were built not only because the smog and pollution was so bad, but because there were hardly any trees left to create oxygen. All of the trees were burnt down in wars. Now, there aren't wars like before because there aren't planes or things to make bombs with. 

There's a "park" about 10 minutes walk away from here. I take the kids there once a week, but it's not the same. There are no more birds- all the animals have been killed off, except for dogs and cats, who survived because at first they were being used for experiments for testing air quality and cosmetics, so there are all the descendants of the survivors. We have one dog and two cats and I love them so much. 

The government is made of regular people who get together in a circle and ask the needs of everyone. No one is homeless. There isn't a very great difference in class between people because there's not much to own. There aren't any prisons. There are no wars. Finally they realized there was nothing to fight over, and the state of the environment was so dire that they couldn't waste their time on wars. But by then, it was too late, so we had to start working on making new ways of living. 

My dream of becoming a marine biologist couldn't come true because the animals in the oceans are all dead. I became a doctor, but I use my mind and hands to help people rather than drugs. We found new ways to cure AIDS and cancer, and because people are living better in some ways, people are healthier. People still get colds though! 

Kids still go to school, but they learn real things, like how to make bowls, start fires, and tell stories. In my daughter's history class, they are learning about the Desert Storm War in 1990. That was when we began converting to electric cars and trolleys because there wasn't very much gasoline left. That cut down on the pollution a little. Our waste goes through a hole in the Vit, but I don't know what happens to it after that. Maybe the same thing they used to do- just put it in the ground and bury it or throw it in the ocean. 

Even though things are different, I try to stay positive. I'm glad to be alive and try to enjoy little things, my work, helping heal people, and making a difference in the world. 

Well, I need to charge my journal, so I'll sign off for now. 


full moon 
snow day


Jaina Bee said...

Perhaps bleak (it was 1990! I remember…), yet with a semisweet post-apocalyptic idealism. This is brilliant, a little too accurate—the headset dictation technology!

mary annie said...

Wow that is the most brilliant piece of writing that I've seen since I've been in graduate school. I think you should write a science fiction book with the voice of your 14 year old self. It's very Octavia Bulteresque. I love the wise resignation when you write "finally they realized there was nothing to fight over..." and the sharp scientific observation when you talk about why there are only dogs and cats are left. Brilliant! Miss you!