There's something about a night flight home from a trip that seems to make me retrospective. I think it's because after a couple of whirlwind days on the road with not enough sleep (I always sleep horribly when I'm away from Anita), I'm in a semi-fugue state, enhanced further by being trapped in a dark tin can with a bunch of folks I don't know.
Whatever the reason, I think about Katie a lot. On my flight last night, this was exacerbated first by watching a fairly mediocre movie called Pitch Perfect. While it had a few good moments, it's mostly a mess, never quite deciding what it's about. There's singing (AutoTuned, sigh), Life Lessons, and sophomoric humor, but it just didn't gel for me.
But it still made me think about Katie and college and like that.
After the movie was a CNBC documentary about 20 Under 20, aka The Thiel Fellowship. Peter Thiel was a co-founder of PayPal, and wants to support young people who have big ideas—to the tune of a two-year fellowship and $100,000, twenty Fellows per year. As the name implies, this means putting college off for two years; the web page says, "Some Ideas Just Can’t Wait." (Besides the link above, there are videos and a blog that are worth checking out.)
The program included clips of some of this year's Fellows talking as they
competed to be selected, as well as Sean Parker (the Napster/Facebook
guy), Elon Musk (PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla Motors), and a bunch of other
well-known names in technology.
It's an amazing idea, and something that simply couldn't have existed even a decade ago. These opportunities for young folks to do interesting things before "paying their dues"—by going through college and finding a "real job" and maybe making enough to go off on their own—have been entirely enabled by the Internet: not just the easy availability of data, but access to technology, crowdsourcing, open source software, and more.
Not that I think Katie was entrepreneurial in the traditional sense. In fact, I doubt that "making lots of money" was something she desired. But some of the Fellows' projects that were mentioned were up her alley, more social than techno. And I could see her getting behind one of those.
I actually wasn't even really thinking that Katie could have been one of that amazing group of kids. What they did remind me of—forcibly—is the passion and energy of the young, and how Katie could be an irresistable force of nature when she put her mind to something.
And so I found myself thinking how the impact of her loss extends beyond just her family and friends: what would she have done, had she lived? Her writing was so powerful and complex, even at 18; I can see her writing the Great American Novel. Or compelling essays on social topics. Or even just a music blog that spread the word on bands worth listening to.