In 4th or 5th grade, we read Z for Zachariah — a story about a 16-year-old girl surviving a post-nuclear-apocalypse world on her family’s farm in a sheltered valley. This story stuck with me for a long, long time. It was a vast departure from my usual fare of Little House on the Prairie and Sweet Valley High books, but it made me want to learn enough about basic survival to assure myself I could manage to withstand a nuclear holocaust too.
Then, while I was still way too young for this subject material, I read a Christopher Pike novel called Whisper of Death, in which a couple goes to have an abortion and somehow end up in a deserted world with a few of their friends. I think this was the book where I got the idea of breaking into abandoned stores to grab all the food and drinks and supplies I could ever need. Talk about convenience!
Later, I’d read Steven King’s The Stand and I could picture myself as one of the characters (Frances Goldsmith, naturally), managing to steel myself both physically and emotionally as I survived this brave new world.
In my teens and early 20’s, I imagined myself being knowledgeable and skilled enough to make it in a post-apocalyptic world, in part, thanks to the tips and tricks I’d picked up in the aforementioned books. I was a strong, independent woman, and I did not need civilization in order to thrive!
It was probably about the time that I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road that I began to doubt my stamina for life after civilization as we know it. What exactly, would be the point of fighting to survive, when the world that is left is just a terrible, crappy place and everyone that remains just wants to kill you?
As I got older, I gradually realized just how high-maintenance I actually am and how difficult it would be for me to continue thriving without access to things like air conditioning on hot days, my ear and eye doctors, plus all the eye drops and eye lube I have to use to keep my eyes healthy. Not to mention, if most or all of the people I love were suddenly, tragically eliminated in a catastrophic event… I don’t think I’d have much desire to go on living at that point.
I think it’s good to come to the realization that we’re not invincible, and that’s okay. It makes each day all the more sweeter when you understand how temporary it all is.
Growing up as a Christadelphian, there was always this sense that we had forever ahead of us. Almost like we didn’t need to express how much we loved each other, or to worry about losing anyone because there’d always be the Kingdom! Since leaving that world, and after going through several traumas within our family, (mini-apocalypses, if you will), I’ve learned to appreciate every moment together and to do my best to keep my relationships with my loved ones as open and honest as possible and never take the future for granted.
I do still enjoy reading post-apocalypse or dystopian future stories and living vicariously though the characters, but I no longer imagine that someday I too, will thrive in such environments. I’m content to live right here, right now, taking each day as it comes, and not worrying about things beyond my control.
Got any good books to recommend in this genre? I’m always on the lookout for quality reading material.