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’90s nostalgia is not all that

About the time my class reached our senior year of high school, a curious conversation subject surfaced in our day-to-day discussions.

“Remember old Nickelodeon? Remember pogs? Remember the ’90s and stuff like that?”

With misty eyes, all of Generation Y would sigh, “Yeah, childhood was cool. Life was so much better back in the day. Like, what happened?”

Well, you grew up. Or at least part of you did. Cognitively, you may be stillborn.

Unless you spent most of your youth as a monochrome photo printed on milk cartons, you likely carry fond memories from your upbringing. And that’s great — most people do. But when nostalgia clouds reality and elevates one generation’s formative years above all others, well, that’s just really crazy.

No one chooses what decade they’re born into. Yet many of us openly award the ’90s with the those-were-the-days-and-everything-sucks-now prize. Why? Because we had Beanie Babies, Tamagotchis and Legends of the Hidden Temple?

Children aren’t connoisseurs of fine culture. They digest popular trends and television programs without discretion and will always be subject to what’s current.

Games, toys and cartoons didn’t nosedive once we grew out of them. The cruel reality is, when things get canceled, discontinued or irrelevant, we replace them — sometimes with better things.

Did our older schoolmates sneer at us for not appreciating Fraggle Rock or Punky Brewster? If we can’t grapple with inevitable Facebook groups like “I grew up with Wizards of Waverly Place,” we’ll be crotchety well before we reach middle age.

This isn’t the culmination of a lifelong personal war against reminiscing. To be honest, I’ve always found myself inclined toward needless sentimentality. As someone infatuated with 20th century pop culture, I regularly wrestle with nostalgia for times I never experienced.

My favorite decade is the 1980s. The movies, the fashions, the new wave music — I often dream of living there. It all seems like totally trippendicular, you know? But my impression of the decade might as well be an extended John Hughes movie with perms and Rubik’s Cubes. Scratch AIDS, war and famine out of my invented history; we need room for Pac-Man.

Look, it’s natural to romanticize childhood, but let’s not waste our remaining vigor recalling the near past. Make worthwhile memories now. When we’re old — and I don’t mean 35 — we should realize life wasn’t better back then. For a moment, you were simply a child with no responsibilities, like everyone else before and after you.

BY TYLER SORENSEN
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