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I graduated high school 20 years ago...

By Kevin Patrick Kenealy This is my seniors' last week of high school. As such, I have reflected on my time in high school as this year marks my twentieth anniversary of graduating from H.L. Richards in 2004. In fact, the picture you see below is one I gave to my job's yearbook advisor so she could add it to the teacher's 'throwback session' of the book. Students thought I looked the same now as I did then. What a compliment! 

Anyway, I got to thinking of everything that has changed between '04 and today, and man, it's like watching Back to the Future. I compiled a list of the differences between then and now. 

This is my senior high school yearbook photo, circa 2004. Sorry that it's so grainy!


-Students didn't have cell phones in class

-The only social media platforms were AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace (My AOL screen name was "HippieDude16." Tell me one person who doesn't go back and laugh at their screen names. I dare you. 

-People still read newspapers. My dad would read the paper daily over his morning coffee, and when he was done, I'd borrow it. 

-Amazon wasn't famous yet, so people went SHOPPING at physical stores. Speaking of stores, places still open were Toys "R" Us, Sears, K-Mart, Blockbuster, Radioshack, KB Toys, Old Country Buffet, Sharper Image, Borders, etc. This also includes more malls that were open! 

-Kids went outside to play. Without cellphones and such, my high school friends and I were always outside doing things. 

-Google wasn't as popular as it is now. AskJeeves was around, but we still relied more on our mental capacities. We had to remember how to get places and phone numbers and how to add, subtract, and multiply. 

-School and mass shootings weren't as big then. There was 9/11, of course, and Columbine years earlier, but things didn't really pick up until a few years later. 

-The absence of AI and tech in the classroom made cheating harder for students. 

-I'm sure there is more, but I can't think of what they are now. 

Yes, that was just twenty years ago. As these seniors leave high school, what will the world look like in the next twenty years? I'm scared of what it will look like. Does that mean I'm just out of touch? Maybe. Or is it that the world is getting too inhumane? Are we losing touch with each other? I know as you get older, we all miss the 'good old days,' and I'm sure those who graduated in their respective eras will say the same things, but I think days before all this technology (ironic, isn't it? I'm typing this on my blog and delivering it to you) made life simpler and more connected with each other. 

I feel the future is going to be kind of like that movie Wall-E. AI is going to have such an influence on our lives that we're going to forget how to do basic functions. Jobs will be lost because of things we previously could do, and AI will now replace them. It sounds so sci-fi, but where else could we go from here? I didn't mean for this post to be such a Debbie Downer, but like that line from The Shawshank Redemption, "The world just went and got itself up in a big damn hurry." 

Anyway, it's not all bad. In those twenty years, I traveled to forty-eight of the fifty states and multiple countries, obtained a journalism degree, a high school English degree, and an English Lit masters. I found my calling as an English teacher, and I have been teaching for ten years at the same school where I love being. I enjoy seeing each generation of kids grow up and move on to bigger and better things. I have published multiple books and tried staying close to my friends and family. Most importantly, I married the love of my life, and we have two wonderful boys. God is good! So, while the world may have changed, it doesn't mean our attitude about it and those around us has to. It is sad that those simpler times are gone and will never return. Yet that doesn't mean we still can't graduate with the times and still live a simple life. 

Kevin Patrick Kenealy is the author of the recent book Neighborhood Watch. The sequel Neighborhood Watched is coming soon. To check out Neighborhood Watch, visit Amazon here or check it out at Andersons Bookshop in Downers Grove, Barbara's in Orland Square Mall, or The Book Dragon in Stockton-on-Tees, United Kingdom.

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