My family didn't purchase a clunky desktop computer until I was in fourth, maybe fifth, grade.
I don't know what drove my parents to do so — pressure from school leaders, a dip in cost or just a gradual evolution of 1990s social norms — but that computer, loaded with the latest edition of the digital multimedia encyclopedia Microsoft Encarta, was the world at my fingertips.
With Encarta, my generation's introduction to something like Google or Wikipedia, I looked up all sorts of details on historical events, geographic regions and exotic animals. I also listened to David Bowie's "Changes" for the first time. I knew him as the shimmering, slightly terrifying, goblin king from "The Labyrinth." My best friend and I would play that song on repeat — though, from what I remember, it was only available as a 30-second loop.
Anyway, I'm going to argue that the Bowie song, released in 1971, is just as relevant to kids growing up today as it was when I was an adolescent. I find this part especially meaningful to life's progression and the way every generation evolves and adapts to the present:
"But still the days seem the same/ And these children that you spit on/ As they try to change their worlds/ Are immune to your consultations/ They're quite aware of what they're goin' through."
Sometimes I think older generations forget that not all young people — millennials and Gen Z alike — were born with computers or laptops on their desks at home or smartphones and tablets in their hands. Even if we were, we are all merely products of the time period we're growing up in. We're all adapting to the changes.
Today, that means we're part of an era where "influencer" is considered a job title, Alexa and Siri are the names of our personal assistants, and companies in the automotive sector are planning for a disruptive — and perhaps driverless — future.
Each generation will continue to face big changes in society that are especially driven by technological advancements, many of which we probably can't even begin to imagine yet. As we grow up, we're tasked with finding new solutions to new problems and better solutions to old problems. That's just how life works. Nothing is permanent or guaranteed, but I do believe that every generation shares one thing in common: wanting to make a difference.
And that brings me to the most important point of this column: Plastics News is looking for the next cohort of young people who are making a difference in the plastics industry, whether that means solving today's problems or developing tomorrow's technology.
We'll be featuring the sixth class of Rising Stars in our Aug. 5 edition, and we want to include the brightest in the industry who are under 35 years old. You can nominate yourself or a coworker by visiting www.plasticsnews.com/risingstars. The deadline for applications is June 17.
Time may change how we do certain things, but we can decide what those changes mean for our path forward. And for the plastics industry, I know this next group of Rising Stars is already going to be one step ahead.
LaForest is a Detroit-based Plastics News staff reporter. Follow her on Twitter @audreylafrst.