The Lost Decade | Teen Ink

The Lost Decade

March 31, 2013
By a.bry, Vienna, Virginia
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a.bry, Vienna, Virginia
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Favorite Quote:
"Living is finding something worth dying for" -- MLK


Author's note: I want readers to realize that this decade is far from lost, despite it's common name as the "lost decade." Although it was hard, we should appreciate it for what we learned from while it is still mostly stereotype-free. Every decade has its identifiable and cliche token connotations, but we have the power to now leave an accurate portrayal of the decade while it is a blank slate in history. As someone who only has memory of 2000-onward in my life, I felt called to document my own experience of the decade. I also would like adults to read my documentation of the decade through the eyes of a teenager and find more respect for my generation; despite our already formed negative stereotypes, we are hard-workers who have only lived in a broken and fearful America.

Every night when I was a kid, my mom would interrupt whatever bad sitcom or reality TV show I was watching to turn on the news. She’d say, “Let’s see what happened in the world today, shall we?”
This was posed as a question, but I had no doubt that there was only one acceptable answer.
“Sure,” I’d say with a smile. The truth was that I always loved watching the news, and my dream of becoming a broadcast journalist is largely accredited to her affinity for the news. When a story was really sad, my emotional Italian mother would start to tear up.
She’d been through a lot, too; abused as a young girl, she worked hard in grade school so that she could attend the University of Pennsylvania where she met my dad. She was only 17 because she was young for her class. My mom paid her way through college and started a new life for herself as a pediatric then psychiatric nurse, helping others make their lives better, too.

So on came ABC 7 news. Familiar faces every night, saying familiar things.
“We live in hard times,” they’d say. “Money is tight.” Although I already knew that firsthand as my father had been unemployed for almost 3 years.
Recession. Terrorism. Hurricanes. Cancer. War.
A scared nation. A “lost decade.”

People started saying this at the end of the decade: Lost. But I couldn’t help thinking, can the decade really be lost when it only just ended? Is it really lost to us when it only just occurred? I write this memoir for the sake of recording what the decade was like before we forget or label it with inaccurate stereotypes.
It may be hard to reflect on this period until more time has passed. Perhaps after another decade or two people will be able to look back and more clearly define the era by its clichés and stereotypes. However, I’d like to reflect on it with a fresh memory, from the eyes of someone who has grown up in it. I have only known this age, anyway, and don’t have much to compare it to. The US in shock and devastation is the only US I have ever known. Living in this time period in many ways has shaped who I am and the way I see the world.
This is why when my dad asked me one night at dinner what time period I would live in if I had the choice, I knew my answer immediately: right here, right now.
Fat. Lazy. Rude. Generation Z has been stereotyped by obesity, playing too many violent video games, and text messaging at the dinner table. Well, this is one Z child who does not possess those traits, and I’m certainly not the only one. But what is it really like to live in my generation? We are complex and hardworking individuals who have been forced to mature more rapidly than past generations. We hold an extreme weight of the dark time period we have faced. We’ve have our childhood innocence stolen from us, having adult crises thrown at us before we were able to understand them.
Additionally, our generation’s pressure to succeed is tremendous. If a child doesn’t get A’s in school, play sports, and achieve high levels of success, then he/she is unappreciated. I was blessed with parents who only care that I am my own personal best, but unfortunately parents like this are becoming harder to find. I’ve seen other kids crack under pressure from teachers and parents. I’ve seen kids quit activities they loved because they couldn’t handle the stress it caused as a result of not being the absolute best at it. I’ve seen students give up their social lives to fulfill their parents’ academic expectations. And unfortunately, I’ve seen kids become depressed due to pressures put on them by society—be it regarding appearance, athletic or academic ability, or social standing.
We are worthy of your respect. We have earned it. In fact, to all adults of the 21st century, please retain a little respect for us. We have lived through quite a lot – from terrorism causing us to learn how to act during a “lock in” at school; to watching family and friends die in the 9/11 attack; to seeing our parents lose their jobs and, with that, their faith; to being labeled as a helpless generation that will live shorter and less successful lives that those of their parents.
You must understand our struggles, as we have toughed our way through some of the most hopeless times our country has faced.
One last piece of food for thought before we begin: as any stressed out honors high school student of today knows, history repeats itself. Don’t let another generation of children see the nation in the same state of hopelessness that I have.
So without further adieu, here is a memoir of “the lost decade” documented while it’s really not yet lost at all, in the eyes of a youth of Generation Z.

A new millennium held so much promise. Everyone wanted to start fresh and grab hold of new opportunities.

Break Down of 2000
There was the presidential election between Republican, George W. Bush, and Democrat, Al Gore. Vermont was the first state to legalize same-sex civil unions. California suffered from rolling blackouts. Tiger Woods became the youngest winner of the Golf Grand Slam. Gas prices in the US reached $2.00, breaking records and shocking the public. We faced the Y2k problem, which challenged us to decide how to go about no longer being able to shorten 4-digit year names into 2-digits as we did during the 1900s. Since many programmed electronics had been set to only the year 1999, some of them restarted their internal clocks to January 1, 1900 instead of 2000. Computers around the world had to be reprogrammed for the new millennium. Additionally, the year 2000 became recognized as the year that cell phones became a fundamental consumer device, required by most interpersonal occupations.

In the Eyes of a Four-Year-Old: Excitement
To a four-year-old, it was confusing why people were so excited about the new year to come. I was at a party with my family, which had lots of people and music and dancing; it was quite exciting for a little girl. My brother and I got to stay up late with all the adults, which was a big deal as well. I had a lot of fun, but I was confused why everyone thought something was going to happen to all of us at midnight. Wasn’t it just the same as every other night, but with the added pleasure of a party?
So at 12:00 am on the morning of January 1st I said to my dad, “Daddy, I don’t feel different.” My dad loves the way kids see the world so plainly, so he laughed, picked me up and gave me a kiss on the cheek saying, “That’s okay honey, you aren’t supposed to feel different. In fact, you’re probably the most logical one here.” He chuckled at his own joke, per usual, and set me back down to play.
Simple and emotionless, this was a naive remark by my child self. Still, immaturity aside, this was probably the way that most people should have approached the new decade: optimistic, not set up for disappointment.
My dad has always said that adults often overanalyze the world, causing them to set their expectations too high and overlook the little pleasures in life. He uses the example of bubbles, and how when a little kid sees a bubble, he/she immediately gets excited and wants to chase it. Butterflies also usually have the same affect. Adults, on the other hand, neglect simple things like this. Those examples are relatable for a child, but there are also germane “little things” that apply to the lives of adults, too. Perhaps these include appreciating that your spouse bought your favorite cereal again this week, or that your eight-year-old son drew your face on a paper plate for an art project in school. He could have drawn anybody’s face, and yours was the one he chose. Whatever the little things are in your life, don’t forget them. Moreover, don’t get disappointed by the fallout of unrealistic expectations, while simultaneously letting the little things pass you by. That’s just a lose-lose, isn’t it?
So after the parties, toasts, and kissing at midnight, maybe we all shouldn’t have lost that innocent hope for something greater. If we reflect on the decade, disregard our previous overestimations, and instead focus on the faith we held in our hearts, then maybe we could get a little bit of that faith back.

Overview
To many, the year 2000 was underwhelming, and it lacked tragedy. Many thought it would include something revolutionary. The Ladies Home Journal of 1900 predicted that by the year 2000, people would be able to take photographs from any distance because humans would have developed cameras and telescopes to allow people to see around the world. This publication also predicted that flies and mosquitoes would no longer exist and that people would grow strawberries to the size of apples.
Some expectations were fulfilled. The same journal also anticipated home refrigerators, free public education, underground urban mass transportation, and that music and entertainment could be enjoyed in the home through some sort of public telephone.
Did the turn of the century meet expectations and reinvent the world as we know it? Nope. But if it had been any other year, would people have been particularly dissatisfied? Also unlikely.

After hundreds of years of being the proudest nation on earth, September 11th permanently scared the crap out of us all. It had a numbing effect on the country because neither the people nor the government knew quite how to respond. Were we supposed to counterattack the terrorists? Or blame their innocent homeland? Or go about our lives, ignoring the mass destruction that shook our spirits? Nothing could make the pain disappear or bring back our lost loved ones.

Break Down of 2001
RuneScape was launched as an online video game that quickly became popular. George W. Bush was sworn into office. Wikipedia launched on the internet. Tropical Storm Allison hit Texas hard, killing 22. World’s first artificial heart was created and implanted in July. Anthrax attacks through the mail were sent, affecting 22 and killing 5. War in Afghanistan began in October. PATRIOT Act signed into law, expanding the government’s ability to search for terrorists, wiretap, and check citizens for violence.
And of course, on September 11th, the Twin Towers of New York City and the Pentagon were attacked by suicide terrorists flying planes into the United States. Nearly 3,000 innocent civilians were killed that day.

In the Eyes of a Five-Year-Old: Evil
I was in Kindergarten. I remember being at home with my mom as she got a call from her best friend telling her to turn on the television. My mom flipped it on and asked her what channel to go to, but as soon as she finished asking her jaw dropped. Repeated videos and images of the Twin Towers going up in smoke brought tears to her eyes.
Our dear family friend died in the attack. It wasn’t for another few weeks until I realized that he really never was coming back. I would never go to his house, eat dinner with his family, or sit in his lap ever again. The beauty he brought to my life was stolen from me. And it was because of some violent men who didn’t even know him.
This was shocking to me. I didn’t understand that it wasn’t a personal attack against him, but because he was the only victim I had closely known, it seemed like they were trying to hurt him. And me. Why would anyone do such a terrible thing to a good person?
This was the first time I experienced human evil, and it was a mighty powerful thing.

I still remember the confused, angry, and defensive feeling that settled in me during that time. It later morphed itself into a sore pain, like a bruise. Even though it doesn’t hurt all the time, it burns when I touch the bruise and remember him. The bruise hasn’t healed, and likely never will. He was like an uncle to me. Still, I tell myself it was better to have loved and lost than never gotten the chance to love him at all.
I will continue to grow up and mature, and my views of past events will change and deepen. I will grow an understanding of why certain things had to happen the way they did in my life. As I said, my mom is a psychiatric nurse, so when someone does something really malevolent, I often assume that the instigator was mentally or emotionally unstable.

However, no matter how old I get, I will never stop fearing the power of human evil.

Overview
Never underestimate the power of children. For many adults who lost their loved ones to terrorism in 2001, their kids were the reason they kept on going. We were a glimmer of hope, a population free of deathly sins and free of negativity. We were, and are, the future. Tainted by human evils, we didn’t lose our innocent hope; the same innocent hope that adults too had a year previous on the turn of the millennium. Perhaps you adults can learn to stop assuming the worst is to come; think simply, and think positively, just like children.
The attacks changed the nation’s confidence. We became terrified, frightened by things we could not control. In future years, this fear would continue and be applied to other things like cancer and natural disasters. We, the United States, a nation built on the pure faith of our founding fathers, lost hope.

After a numb fall and winter following September 11th of the previous year, 2002 became a search for security. The Department of Homeland security, the first ever department to promote the general safety of Americans, was formed with the purpose of fighting counterterrorism, securing the borders, and improving disaster response. The government’s main purpose at this time was to reassure Americans that they lived in a safe nation, and encourage them to continue growing as individuals and serving their homeland.

Break Down of 2002
Oregon’s Siskiyou National Forest experienced wildfire spanning over half a million acres. Colorado forest fires destroyed over 100,000 acres of forestation and land.
Bush signed No Child Left Behind into law. Mars Odyssey found water and ice on Mars.
Tornadoes hitting states from Louisiana to Pennsylvania killed 36 people, and injured hundreds more. Dan Pearl of the Wall Street Journal captured and murdered in Pakistan after accused of being in the US CIA. The US invasion of Afghanistan, “Operation Anaconda,” began March 1st. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security. The D.C. sniper killed 10 and injured 3. American Idol premiered and quickly became an extremely popular television show, with Kelly Clarkson claiming the winning title in the finale. The Winter Olympics were held in our very own Salt Lake City. Forty million became infected with AIDS/ HIV virus worldwide.

In the Eyes of a Six-Year-Old: Danger
All of a sudden I was hearing about AIDS more frequently, but still not understanding why people in underdeveloped countries were struggling. All I could comprehend was that people who lived far away were unsafe.
Soon after I learned that danger didn’t only exist in fairy tales, it found a place in my world.
In first grade, I was learning to ride a bike, distinguish quarters from nickels, and write letters (little q versus little g were particularly difficult for me). Out of kindergarten, I was in the same school as my big brother, Peter, which was extremely exciting. I always looked up to Peter, followed him around the house, and mimicked everything he did. Even when we went to summer camp the previous summer, I bawled for hours when he was put in the “big kid” group and I was left without him in the “little kid” group. Now having me in the same school, he got to come to my classroom to walk me to the bus every day as all big siblings at my elementary school did, I loved having the comfort of knowing he was in the same building as me every day.
However, my days on the playground were cut short because of the DC sniper. My elementary school shut down temporarily, and even when we got to go back to school, we didn’t have recess outside for months. It was a terrorizing time in the area I lived in. No more recess because I could get shot on the monkey bars?
By the age of six, I was old enough to understand that I was in danger, too.

Overview
Despite the undeniable sense of insecurity, the people held on to their pride and the government dealt head on with international conflicts. Although we faced multiple conflicts and trials as a nation, the United States stayed true to its name and remained united. 2002 was not a wasted year, nor was it “lost” in the decade. Still numb from the tragedy of 9/11 just one year before, we were eager to reinforce national security.

US citizens became more knowledgeable regarding the War in Iraq. What some had marked off as an uneventful quarrel that would soon subside ended up becoming a war on foreign ground to protect the US from future terrorist attacks because Iraq held weapons of mass destruction. Many Americans had initially wanted some sort of governmental action in Iraq to feel protected after the 9/11 attack, but suddenly the purpose of the war was unclear. Some still thought it was unnecessary action taken, like a punch back at the Middle East. Others thought it was absolutely necessary to prove America undefeatable and discourage terrorism.

Break Down of 2003
On December 3rd the government officially launched the War on Iraq and captured Saddam. The US spaceship Columbia crashed in Texas, killing everyone in it. Hulk was the most popular movie. The government created the Do Not Call list to limit telemarketers. A severe weather outbreak spawned more tornadoes than any week in U.S. history, with 393 tornadoes in 19 states. Undercover sky marshals started working to secure the US from future terrorist attacks. Hurricane Isabel killed 40 and left millions without power. The company Apple launched iTunes, which sold 10 million songs in less than 4 months.

In the Eyes of a Seven-Year-Old: Innovation
I was in the second grade. I remember seeing iPods become more and more ubiquitous, and being extremely jealous when kids my age started getting them as gifts from their parents (yes, in Northern Virginia some kids had iPods before they could properly read). Although there had been iPods since 2001, iTunes allowed people to buy individual songs from their own devices without purchasing the whole CD at a store.
People also were buying cell phones for personal use instead of for business reasons, which seemed so cool to me too. Although I had always loved my CDs and Disney VCR tapes, watching brand new technology skyrocket (seemingly overnight) was extremely exciting.
I was used to listening to my Hilary Duff, Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, and Backstreet Boys CDs in my Walkman or in the car. Even though I liked the new iPod phenomenon, I secretly missed my CD collection. Before iPods, my friends were all jealous of my hip music. I’d have them over for karaoke nights frequently, wearing boas around our necks and pretending to be our favorite celebrities. We always felt very grown up having these get-togethers and listening to pop music. These parties were my first experiences with “girls’ nights.”

Overview
Having matured as a nation from just one year before, many people started doubting that the war was necessary, and regained perspective after 9/11. It was still a scary time, but we had moved on from trying to counteract the attack and reality set in once more. Although we didn’t have quite the same spirit as we did on that midnight at the turn of the millennium, we were working harder than ever with the hope that good times would come again.

Completely unforeseen, the 6th deadliest natural disaster in all recorded history tore apart 6 nations on December 26th.

Break Down of 2004
The US re-elected President George W. Bush over John Kerry. The summer Olympics was held in Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the original Olympic games. After landing, the Mars rover was determined to have been drenched in water. The 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean had a magnitude of 9.1-9.3 and hit Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Somalia. The CIA declared that there was previous to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was no eminent threat of weapons of mass destruction. Lance Armstrong won his 6th consecutive Tour de France, breaking the world record. Mark Zukerburg launched Facebook privately for Harvard students.

In the Eyes of an Eight-Year-Old: Doubt

I heard about the tsunami while, as usual, watching the news with my mom. Images of wrecked buildings, flooded streets, and terrified people flashed in front of my eyes.
I remember bringing an article to school about the tsunami to share with the class for “current events,” which was our big kid version of show-and-tell using the news. My assigned current events day was the day after the tsunami, so I stood in front of the class and explained what happened. Many kids hadn’t heard about it, and even the ones who did asked me how it happened. I re-read the article, but that didn’t explain why these poor people had to suffer so much. I had asked the same question when I first heard about it on the news the night before. I didn’t have an answer for them.
The tsunami was so random and so detrimental, which made it that much scarier. It was events like this that made me start to question the world, and even my own faith, at such a young age. I’ve always believed that there had to be a God out there who understood why everything happened the way it did, but why would He allow so many people to die in such a horrific way?
After pondering this question for a few days, I eventually came to the conclusion in the shower one evening that bad things had to happen to make the good things feel better, or else no one would appreciate the good stuff. This made the most sense to me, even though there still didn’t seem to be one obvious answer to explain the trauma that so many had endured. However, despite my eight-year-old search for a silver lining on each cloud, I was doubtful.
The times I lived in made me doubtful.

Overview
Despite the extremely close election going on at home, the country banded together as one and had showed major national pride for the Olympic games and won 102 total medals. Although we had our own national problems and complaints that year, the terrorizing Tsunami helped us regain perspective and remember countries with worse situations than our own and give back to the larger world community. 230,000 were killed and 10 million left homeless, so the US temporarily set aside its anxious presumptions about Iraq and provided affected countries with 25 million dollars.

For the second year in a row, destructive tragedy affected the lives of thousands, but this time it was in our own backyard. Hurricane Katrina tore apart one of the nation’s most jazzy and zestful cities, New Orleans.

Break Down of 2005
Hurricane Katrina hit the United States. Condoleezza Rice was confirmed as the new secretary of state. The US military in Iraq killed 838 civilians. Rosa Parks died. Alberto Gonzales became the first Hispanic Attorney General. Former top FBI official Mark Felt admitted to being Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal. Michael Jackson was found not guilty of child molestation charges. President Bush admitted to personally allowing a wiretapping system after 9/11. The tenth planet was discovered, after having been postulated by astronomers for over 75 years.

In the Eyes of a Nine-Year-Old: Redefinition
So let me get this straight. There’s a 10th planet somewhere out there, which has always existed, but we just never knew about it?
There comes a time in every child’s life when he or she is officially a “big kid.” Perhaps the title comes with a later bedtime, higher allowance, a new bike, or more independence. However, every big kid has one thing in common, which is this: they have all cracked the secret that Mom, Dad, and teachers in fact don’t know everything. But shh! Don’t tell a little kid.
This was the year I grew into my own “big kid” persona. Finding out that there was a 10th planet meant that my teachers were wrong all along, school textbooks had to be updated, and a new knowledge standard had to be set for future students and learners everywhere.
Then I found out that the president admitted to something wrong he had done, and publicly apologized for his involvement in the government’s wiretapping scheme.
Could this happen? And more importantly, what else have the adults been getting wrong?
The whole situation seemed crazy to me.

Overview
2005 was a rough year for us. Hurricane Katrina devastated our country and recovery seemed painfully slow. The US government’s lack of preparedness for disaster caused embarrassment and criticism. New Orleans was 80% underwater after being hit by the 3rd strongest hurricane in US history, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed to sufficiently respond for days. This malfunction did not go without apology, though, and the white house issued a 150-page document called “Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned.”
With over 1,800 killed and delayed reaction, there better have been a few lessons learned.

The nation’s biggest recall of produce ever, affecting people in 26 states and killing 3. Additionally, the greatest immigration reform strike of US history lasted from March to May and included one day of absolute boycott. Legal and illegal immigrants refused to go to work, buy products, and attend school across the nation, temporarily crippling US businesses.

Break Down of 2006
Two major E-Coli breakouts from spinach and lettuce made 500 ill and caused consumers to be wary of even the most basic foods. Pluto was downgraded to a “dwarf planet.” Nintendo released the Wii. Google bought Youtube for 1.65 billion. Twelve coal miners died in the West Virginia in the Sago Mine Disaster. An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 hit Hawaii. US immigrants boycotted the nation’s schools and businesses for one day called the “Great American Strike” to demonstrate the countries economical need for them as laborers and consumers. Barry Bonds of the hit his 715th home run and broke Babe Ruth’s previous world record.

In the Eyes of a Ten-Year-Old: System Correction
Chew On This was published in 2006 and became popular rapidly. The book graphically described the way animals are treated before being killed for food. After reading it for school, I never wanted to see another chicken nugget again.
Soon after that, the E-Coli outbreaks occurred. My family are salad lovers, so hearing that eating spinach and lettuce could kill me was a little freaky… but it got me out of eating my vegetables for a while, which wasn’t exactly a huge disappointment either.
After finding out that adults could be wrong in 2005, 2006 was also a year of discovering systematic flaws in adults. With the E-coli scares, I knew that not only could one adult make a minor mistake, but massive groups of adults could collectively fail at their jobs, too. I always thought that if many people work together on a project, then most all of the errors would certainly be recognized and corrected. But now, not only had one adult messed up, but entire production companies had failed, and the fatal flaw remained unrecognized until multiple people had already become ill.
I also had always thought that fighting back against “the system” was what bad kids did and undoubtedly deserved punishment. After watching the Great American Strike on TV, I thought that those people had done a bad thing. But after discussing the strike’s similarity to those of the Civil Rights Movement in school, I didn’t think it was so “naughty” anymore.
Sometimes correcting parents, teachers, food production companies, and the government can be a good thing. Sometimes it isn’t rude and wrong, but instead allows the people to voice their opinions. That’s what America is all about anyway, right? Sometimes it is necessary to remind them that they make mistakes, too.

Overview
In retrospect, the nationwide Great American Strike didn’t have completely cohesive goals, nor did it accomplish any specific achievements; nonetheless, the daylong boycott proved that today’s American economy would not survive without the jobs, services, and even consumer roles held by immigrants.

The start of a global recession in December 2007 sent the world spiraling downward into financial crisis that would last years to come. It is considered by economists to be the worst global financial situation since the 1930’s Great Depression.

Break Down of 2007
The 2007-present day global recession began. Home prices dropped 10-15% in many areas and foreclosures increased. Summer ’07 was the driest in US history since the dust bowl. The Bridge over the Mississippi river on I35W collapsed 50 feet above the water, but only 13 were killed due to rapid response. One of the largest fires in US history raged through Southern California, destroying 400,000 acres and 2,000 homes. President Bush announced his plan to send an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq. Six miners and three rescue workers died from being trapped in a collapsed mine in Utah. Widespread use of human growth hormones and anabolic steroids in Major League Baseball was revealed by the “Mitchell Report.” Halo 3 broke entertainment history and generated $170 million within 24 hours of release. Thirty-two people were killed in the Virginia Tech massacre in Blacksburg, Virginia on the college’s campus. Nancy Pelosi became the first woman to be Speaker of the House.

In the Eyes of an Eleven-Year-Old: Frustration

At 11 years old, I knew my parents pretty well, and I knew when they were worried. When my dad’s company laid him off due to the economical downturn, he was thrown into a 3-year-long battle with unemployment. I watched him grow more frustrated and discouraged with each day. By the time I was 13, unemployment seemed to have beaten him in battle; he was self conscious and aggravated, and restless from having to be at home.

This was inconceivable for all of us. He had never been let go from a company in his life. After going to the prestigious Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, he had no problem finding jobs. My dad loved having a purpose and enjoyed being a leader. He worked in many positions and had experience in economics, business, data, and finances. The epitome of a people person, my dad had the perfect balance of lighthearted humor and extreme determination; everyone loved him.

The brilliant, lovable, lively, hard-working, enthusiastic and confident man whom I knew lost hope like the rest of the country.

What did this mean for me? You would think that I would work less in school and come to the conclusion that no matter how hard a person works, crap happens. Every so often you can’t determine your future with hard work. Well, guess again. It put a fire in my belly (whether this was good or bad is yet to be determined). All my life I have been a fighter, particularly for good grades. Despite anything I was going through, from my mom’s two battles with cancer to my dad’s unemployment, I always killed myself for the sake of my grades in school.
This experience made me work all the harder.

Overview

The year’s economic downturn would become a longer fight than we knew it would ever be in 2007. Only the beginning of a global recession that has still not recovered today, the crisis’ roots seemed temporary and remediable. Years to come would prove us wrong.

Governments around the world faced the continuing problems of inflation and increased unemployment.

Break Down of 2008
Bush and the House agreed to create a $150 billion stimulus package. The marketing of foods produced by cloned animals was legalized. Stock markets drastically fell in other nations, especially in Europe and Asia. President Bush gave his last State of the Union address, speaking vaguely about the economy as well as suggesting the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act and electronic surveillance laws. The Governor of Illinois, Blagojevich, was arrested for conspiracy to commit mail/wire fraud and bribery, so the Illinois House of Representatives voted to impeach Blagojevich. The US dropped nearly 40,000 pounds of bombs near Mesopotamia, Baghdad to target insurgents linked to al-Queda. The US government auctioned off radio spectrum licenses to wireless broadband services, which Verizon Wireless won the majority of. In response to the plunge in markets around the world, the Federal Reserve Bank cut interest rates by .75%, the largest single-day reduction in the bank's history. President Bush signed the $700 billion bailout Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 into law. The price of oil hit the all time high of $147 a barrel. And of course, the first African American won the presidential election of the United States. Democrat Barack Obama beat republican John McCain by 192 electoral votes and nearly 10 million popular votes.

In the Eyes of a Twelve-Year-Old: Desperation

As I said, I’ve always watched the news with my mom. Every night we see what is going on in the ever-changing world we live in. 2008 was the year, in my perspective, that President Bush and the US government became desperate to revive the economy. The previous year was like the calm before the storm that hit us hard in 2008. Now, they didn’t know how to make it end as quickly as possible.

One year after being laid off, my dad was still out of work. A year before, my mom promised that he would find a job by December at the end of the year. Now, after 18 months of rejection, little did he know that he would undergo another 12 months of the same torture. He was intellectual, overqualified, and lost in a crashing economy.
My dad was growing weary searching for employment day in and day out. It was torturous watching him get discouraged, but the worst part was not knowing how long it would take for the right opportunity to arise. Six months passed, then a year, then a year and a half, then two years, then two years and 8 months. I hated coming home from school and seeing him demoralized. I prayed every night that he would find something soon, but I didn’t even know if anyone out there was hearing my prayers anymore. And I still don’t— currently out of work for the second time, my dad is battling again with unemployment.
He had never ever struggled finding a job in the past. If anything, he had the challenge of choosing between companies that were begging him to come aboard. He never had anything less than a leadership position, either. How could this be happening? I wondered at night while I prayed. God, if you are out there, why this? And why us? In the same sticky position once more, I find myself wondering the same questions all over again.
But it wasn’t just my family, and still isn’t. My friends’ parents lost their jobs, the government made repeated attempts to stimulate the economy, and even my middle school tried saving money by cutting down the number of trash bags and paper towels we used. In fact, one of my dad’s friends was fired, looked for a job for years, and has now fallen to unofficial retirement. Afraid that he will never find another position, he’s given up at last. When would, and now when will, our struggle finally reach an end?
Everywhere I looked, the nation was trembling under the weight of the economic crisis.

Overview

Although we are still experiencing aftershocks today, 2008 was considered to be the worst year of the 2007-present day economic recession. After growing almost 3 trillion dollars in debt in just one year, the US is now over the recession hump and looking towards a hopefully more positive future.

After one million people were ill with the H1N1 virus, or “swine flu,” the US government literally stopped counting the number of cases reported in the nation. In fact, most governments around the world and the Center for Disease Control stopped keeping track of swine flu cases because there were simply too many to count.

Break Down of 2009

Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. He also signed his first bill into law, which was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The World Health Organization declared H1N1 influenza, or “swine flu,” as an official global epidemic. Massively popular music artist Michael Jackson died due to initially unknown causes, which was later determined to be propofol intoxication after respiratory arrest in his Los Angeles home, Neverland. Peanut Butter caused an outbreak of salmonella that sickened almost 500. Barack Obama chose previous campaign component Hillary Clinton to serve as Secretary of State. “Octa-mom” gave birth to octuplets in California, all of whom were declared healthy. US Airways Flight 1549 was struck by a flock of Canada geese causing the plane to crash into the Hudson River, but thanks to pilot Captain Chesley Sullenberger, the landing was safe and successful.

In the Eyes of a Thirteen-Year-Old: Companionship

Sick with the swine flu on Halloween night. Can’t go out, can’t see friends, can’t eat candy without vomiting.

However, it was on this same dreadful night that I learned the power of true friends. If you recall my anecdote from 2001, I learned the power of human evil early on. However, it wasn’t until later in my life that I truly realized the importance of having true-blue friends. You know, the kind that drive you crazy half the time, but usually know you better than you know yourself.

Lucky for me, I had friends like this by the time I was thirteen. It was a good thing, too, because I’d soon need their support even more during my mom’s battle with colon cancer.

On Halloween I was supposed to go trick-or-treating for the last time with my two best friends. Unfortunately, due to my condition with H1N1, that simply was not going to happen. I was hesitant to call them and cancel on the day of, but I knew I had to even if they were disappointed. They certainly didn’t want to end up as sick as I was.

So I called them, explained how terrible I felt, and they understood completely. After a few hours of moping around and wallowing in my own self-pity, there was a knock at the door. It was my two friends, with the sweetest card I have ever read, and a massive bag of candy.

I was overjoyed that they cared about me enough to lug around a heavy third bag with them and bring it over to my house (especially since I live the farthest away out of the three of us) just to make my weekend a little brighter.

I never forgot their thoughtfulness. These girls ended up being the same the people I turned to when my family went through any sort of hard time, and on the flip side, they are also the girls I could have a fun day out with to break from general life stresses.

I thought of the other friends I had and who would do the same thing for me. This supportive network of people became so important as I entered my teenage years; I am not sure where I would be without them.

To the girls and boys in that network, I don’t say it enough, but I love you.
You know who you are.
Overview

Although most governments chose to lose count of cases of H1N1, the World Health Organization approximated that at least 18,000 people were killed by H1N1. However, another study suggests that as many as 579,000 died of the swine flu virus, or of further related causes. As a country, the epidemic reminded us that we weren’t quite prepared for emergency health situations like that and needed significant overhaul of the systems we had in place.

Our nation began as an unlikely dream of frustrated men. We conquered all odds and became a thriving country with some of the greatest economic, political, and cultural influence in the world. We have had over 300 years of government without public uprising, 44 presidents under the same government format, and peaceful transitions of power all the while. We have fulfilled a dream and taken it farther than anyone predicted in the 1700s, growing from 13 colonies to 50 states, from slavery to an African American president. We cannot settle now on the feeling of fear and numbness after a few years of discouraging events. We must keep the fight: the feeling the founding fathers had in 1776, and the feeling we had at midnight on the turn of the millennium.
We are a country that has endured vicious wars and tragedies but kept peace under the same government style since the nations first baby steps. We are the country historically known as nation where the people rule, the one nation truly revolving around its people at a local, state, and federal level. We are the revolutionaries, the trendsetters, the free thinkers.
We are the United States of America, and we deserve to be proud again.

Don’t you just love getting a handwritten letter in the mail? When you’re flipping through the mile-high pile of junk mail, and you find one letter or invitation that’s addressed just for you? Well, that’s what this section is meant to be.
My story, until today, is printed. You’ve read it through—I hope—and may be confused how it relates to you and your life. Just in case you don’t yet understand what I would like to instill in you personally, I’ve made you a list to keep in the back of your mind as you close this memoir and get back to your reality. This is my request to you:
1. Appreciate the times you live in.
I urge you to make the most of these hard times. I too have felt sorry for myself. In fact, feeling sorry for myself was in part what made me write this memoir. However, most of the chemical happiness you experience is synthetic happiness (in other words, it’s your own creation). If we all make ourselves a little happier—then make those around us a little happier—then I assure you the times won’t seem so tough.
2. Appreciate your own life.
I can tell you for a fact you aren’t dead, so that’s going well for you. Otherwise, if you aren’t currently starving, homeless, or being eaten alive by a shark, I’d go as far to say that your life is moving in a positive direction. Kudos.
3. Appreciate children.
Whether you recognize their existence, they are all around you. Give the next one you see a smile. Or, if you feel so inclined, give him/her a high five. It will make both you and a kid feel better for a moment.
4. Observe more.

Watching how other people’s lives are—and I mean really watching—can also help you learn to appreciate your own. What living in hard times means for you may be drastically different than what it means to your neighbors. Perhaps either you or they need a reminder that everyone has a struggle. If you look around, you’ll see for yourself. Everyone has a story.
5. Reflect more.

This probably seems very similar to #4, but it’s not. Reflect = examine yourself. Observe = examine others.


I’m not one to lecture, nor do I know much about life. I’m only 16 after all. But it does seem to me that humanity hasn’t quite gotten it right yet, whatever “it” is. In my opinion, “it” is appreciating what we have.
But appreciation isn’t always easy.
For the things you can’t quite appreciate, share your story.

Thank you for letting me share my story with you.
Good luck with yours.

Best,
Annie



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