I have often wondered if I am the only person who wonders what the Earth will be like after my life is over. Call it morbid, weird or just plain cuckoo, but I spent the better part of my childhood pondering on things most people would shy away from.
I even used to lie awake at night in a dark bedroom I shared with my brother and pretend I was lying in a casket. I would cover my face with a blanket and hold my breath, then put my arms across my chest and imagine I was dead. It goes without saying that I wasn't what many people would consider to be a normal child when I was growing up.
But that was my imagination at work, and I was always dreaming or envisioning new things every single day. It didn't take much to get my mind going, and to this day, I still catch myself wondering about things that many would find strange. I've even turned a few of those thoughts and ideas into short stories, which is a hobby I find to be relaxing during particularly hectic times.
One such thought occurred to me while I was a junior at Tuloso-Midway High School, which also happens to be my alma mater.
I had stayed after school, since I was a member of the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps' armed drill team. I wasn't really a fan of the rules that came with being in the NJROTC - particularly the uniforms - but I genuinely enjoyed some of the camaraderie that was prevalent throughout Warrior Company.
That afternoon, as I waited around with a couple of friends for practice to start, I took a moment to look around at everybody. They were laughing and joking around. It was high school, after all. That type of behavior was allowed from time to time.
Then I looked at the buildings and then the cars parked beside it. I started to wonder if Nicolas Cugnot, who invented the first automobile in 1769, which was powered by steam, could have foreseen the world we live in now where automobiles are a necessity and part of our way of life.
That was nearly 240 years ago, and look how far, and yet how little, civilization has come. But the moment I looked at the vehicles that day nearly a decade ago, I asked myself what if, as is the natural order of things, humans were wiped out? All of our history, good or bad, what would become of it?
I've read enough books in my lifetime to know our civilization is nothing more than a blip on the radar of our planet's existence. But something I watched over the weekend called "Aftermath: Population Zero" on the National Geographic Channel finally seemed to answer the question I'd posed to myself as I stood in the sun waiting for the platoon commander to call for practice to begin.
The skyscrapers we have built crumble into rubble, our monuments disappear and homes vanish back into the Earth. In essence, signs of our civilization are mostly wiped away by the natural forces of the planet - wind, rain and plants.
Ironically, the narrator described the Earth as taking a couple of hundred years to recover from the damage inflicted by manmade technology, such as pollution and deforestation.
It's a terrifying thought to some, and an improbable one to others. But in the grand scheme of things, such a hypothetical future is inevitable, at least in my opinion.
It may have taken nearly a decade, but I'm glad to have finally had that question finally answered. Maybe I wasn't such a weird kid after all.
Tim Olmeda is the news editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org