Only I, Gabby Shacknai, would find myself rummaging through an old pile of papers and books and other oddities at 1 AM on a Sunday night. And sure, I’m also watching reruns of old Sex and the City episodes, which is largely what is keeping me awake, but some of what I’ve just found is slowly taking precedent over my favorite show. Carrie Bradshaw can wait for one night. It started with the massive heap of records just beside my record player. I began to sort through Led Zeppelin and Billy Joel and even Def Leppard. Naturally, I got bored. Well, that, and the brown LP-sized bag I was putting some into was getting a bit too full. So, I moved on to the indistinguishable creature in the middle of my room. This creature used to be a coffee table, but nowadays, it’s lucky if an inch of it can shine through the mass of old New Yorkers and Saks catalogues. After clearing the top layer, I began to realize that this monstrous hoard was not just of old magazines and papers but also of books and letters and journals and gift cards! I found torn-out-of-magazine articles (clearly they were good) and old stationary. As if I needed to add on to my already endless list of books to read, I found some that I’ve bought in the last few years that I never actually read. And some that I had. And some that I had started and never finished. I started flipping through a book on sociology and religion, then an old Fitzgerald novel, even some of my old (shitty) poetry. I was so intrigued by what, just a few months ago or a year, had interested me. It was the greatest feeling finding all of these treasures–like falling in love with them all over again.
It’s so difficult to think about how far the world has come in such little time. With the beginning of a new year, I, as always, have been looking into the past. I’ve lately stumbled upon vintage copies of books, magazines, and newspapers, and they have truly reminded me of how rapidly moving our world is. I mean, it’s hard to imagine that it was not even a hundred years ago that the 19th amendment was passed allowing women the right to vote. Thinking about how recent this was is pretty mind blowing considering the equality among the sexes in today’s world. In fact, almost 17% more women voted in the 2012 election than did men. Pretty remarkable. Also taking place in the 1920s was prohibition. Of course, alcohol was not legalized until 1933 with the 21st amendment, but the debate lasted for quite a number of years. I just find it so bizarre that drinking a beer or a glass of whiskey would have been illegal back then when it is now such an ordinary part of our culture. Of course the set drinking age accompanied the legalization and has changed from 18 to 21 in more recent years, but still! And now, with the legalization of marijauna, which seems like such a far fetched action; will the fact that it was ever illegal one day seem preposterous? Of course, the most obvious transition has been slavery. When the United States declared its independence from England in 1776, slavery was a common feature. Almost everyone had slaves. It was how it had always been and didn’t at all seem abnormal. It wasn’t until 1865 that slavery was abolished, of course following the Civil War. That was 149 years ago, and sure, that might seem like a pretty long time, especially given the young age of our country, but that’s not even twice the average American’s life span! Now we have an African American president! It’s incredible how much has changed in such a short time. In January of 1983, TIME Magazine featured am article about machines, particularly the computer. It spoke of the dramatic increase of computer sales and how they were slowly but surely becoming a part of the American life. These computers were, of course, big bulky desktops that took up a large fraction of a room. Now, I’m typing on an iPad, a computer that literally fits in my hands. In just a short thirty years, the technology world has truly gone from 0 to 60. The U.S. is one of the youngest countries around at 237 years old. And in just that minor time period, so very much has changed. For better or for worse, who knows! Sometimes, I wonder what our founding fathers would think if they were to see the country today. Perhaps they’d be proud or maybe disappointed. I suppose that’s a question to ponder, but I do think that it’s a great thing to look at the past as we welcome in the new.