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The Moment: A Selection

“Denial”—A Moment by Kathy Ritchie (audio/video)

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

“My first thought was of Ronald Reagan. He died of Alzheimer’s disease, an incredibly long and drawn out process (from what I remembered). Could my mom have this disease? No. Absolutely not.

Around the turn of the 20th century, controversial psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud first posited the existence of denial as a human defense mechanism. For example, we deny that the reason for our poor performance on an exam was our own lack of preparation; we believe instead that the questions were unfair. We deny that lax gun control laws affect the number of fatal shootings in America; we believe instead that these shootings are unpredictable outliers, impossible to prevent. Denial is what occurs when we are trying to protect ourselves from an unsavory reality, and it is also what writer Kathy Ritchie explores in her piece from The Moment, which details her mother’s difficult diagnosis with dementia. Watch and listen to her story here.

“Flash” by Caroline Paul (Audio)

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

“Later it would seem fitting that my turning point arrived the way a revelation should: with a great flash of light.”

When I was eight-years-old, I was the only girl on my Little League team. For an entire year, I wore a dirty, backwards A’s cap to school every day. I spent recesses discussing the benefits of Mark McGwire becoming America’s next president with any of my male classmates who’d listen. I rarely smiled in public, refused to be dressed in anything “poofy,” and when my mother brought me home an issue of Girls’ Life Magazine, I returned it to her—I was not interested.

Call it being a tomboy, or call it plain, old-fashioned stubbornness. At eight, I believed that being labeled a “girly girl” would be the end of me. Many children (girls and boys) go through similar periods of figuring out exactly where they’re comfortable standing on the gender scale. To some it’s important, to others less so. But for former female firefighter turned writer Caroline Paul, proving tough in front of her male counterparts at the San Francisco Fire Department was the most worthwhile thing she could do—until her attitude almost got in the way of her job, a Moment she’d never forget. She narrates her story in this audio recording.

“Birth” — a Moment by John Carnett (audio/video)

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

When I first put out the call for “Moments” on SMITH a few years ago, I kept the prompt fairly vague. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about a community of storytellers it’s that when the community starts responding to a prompt, they’ll define it in a way that the prompter often hadn’t imagined. That said, when people asked for guidance I told them this: a life-changing moment should be something quite personal and specific to your life, but conveyed in a way that connects to a universal feeling, truth or idea. “And, btw,” I told people, “please no births, Bar Mitzvahs, Sweet Sixteens or weddings”—we’ve all read plenty about those life passages by now. So it’s an irony not lost on me that one of the Moments I keep coming back to is about the thing I discouraged the most: life’s very beginning.

I met legendary Popular Science staff photographer John B. Carnett in 2006 while reporting a story on a Jetpack inventor in Cuernavaca, Mexico. We became friends, and years later as I started to put this book together I asked John to share one image and a few hundred words to reflect a moment that rocked his wild range of experiences. It’s no exaggeration to say that John has taken thousands of photographs of some of the most inventive people, places and things in the world. And yet John’s life-changing moment was about the photo he idn’t take. He narrates his story below.

 
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