This week, I read a story about a message in a bottle. Joanna Buchan was an eight-year-old Scottish schoolgirl living in Aberdeenshire Scotland in 1996. For a school project, she wrote a letter describing her life in Scotland including facts such as “living in a big house,” collecting pogs, and her love of things including her dog, Dougal and the book, Charlotte’s Web. She stuffed the letter in a bottle and dropped it into the sea.
In 2020 while walking the beach in Gasvaer, Norway, Elena Adreassen Haga and her son, Eliah, found the bottle washed up on the shore, read the letter and contacted Joanna, now 34 and a doctor in Australia.
The story got me thinking about how much change has occurred for me personally and for the world in general since 1996. Change now seems to happen so rapidly, it’s hard to remember what it was like in the past but in 1996, the iPhone was more than a decade from being introduced and the internet was just in its infancy. We used to have to use a paper map to figure out where we were going. While writing this piece, I used a tool that didn’t exist then, Google, to look at the headlines from 1996. IBM’s Deep Blue defeated chess master Gary Kasparov for the first time. Dolly, the sheep was cloned, GM was America’s biggest company, and Braveheart won the Oscar for best picture.
Many people profess to not liking change, but change is all around us and in the present day, it’s almost impossible to avoid change. In a Harvard Business Review article by Nick Tasler, How to Get Better at Dealing with Change, the author outlines some strategies including not to expect stability, accepting the past but fighting for the future, focusing on values instead of fears, and talking about problems more than feelings. We’ve all read or heard about these techniques and others as there is a cottage industry of self-help around this topic. I believe that all of these ideas revolve around having a positive attitude and a long-term purpose whatever that may be. This doesn’t mean we ignore the negatives but just try to find the balance.
The letter also reminded me that no matter how much change there is, some things remain the same. In 8-year-old Joanna’s letter, her last sentence is “By the way, I hate boys.”
This week’s selection is:
Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka
The Nobel Prize winner’s first novel in 48 years, involving a sinister online business that sells human body parts for private use in rituals and superstitions, is many things at once: a caustic political satire, a murder mystery, a conspiracy story and a deeply felt lament for the spirit of Nigeria.