We’re a generation of nostalgics. We may have grown up, but — unlike the Tommy Hilfiger overalls — we haven’t quite grown out of this. The average twenty-something’s brain is torn between racing forward at 4G speeds and remembering, often longing for, the way things once were.
I know. I’m one of them.
But being a child of the 90s is so much more than Lip Smacker lanyards and Legos. The Clinton economy, while prosperous, was not synonymous with universal happiness. The New York Times may refer to Millennials as “The Entitled Generation,” but if memory serves me right (which, as a nostalgic Millennial, it does), there were no trophies or participation certificates for the kids who survived the skyrocketing divorce rates, the extravagant consumerism, or the beauty standards which teetered on the edge of emaciation which were staples of that era. Whether it be a fragmented family or a high school experience rivaling Tai Fraiser’s, our generation’s members have actually survived a lot.
And here’s the good thing: That same nostalgia which is often used to poke fun at us? It’s actually a great tool for making peace with a less-than-idyllic childhood. Sometimes, taking the time to close your eyes and tug on those size 3 LA Gears can be the best form of therapy.
- Get over the idea that mid-90s PSA notion that TV will melt your brain or turn you into a couch potato. Watch television that’s “bad for you”, both old and new, from 30-minute comedies to unscripted television. Cultivate a sense of humor. Embrace the way that Adventure Time subtly references Rocko’s Modern Life and Ren and Stimpy. Humanize reality television personalities. Appreciate Mama June’s frugality, and NeNe Leakes’ Phyllis Diller-esque way of pulling a witty comeback out of thin air.
- Once you have a few bucks left in your tip jar after the rent’s been paid, log onto eBay and buy that one toy you wanted that as a kid that your parents couldn’t afford or refused to buy you. Be it a Giga Pet or Sing Along Singing Tommy doll, having that item in your hands now is better than never having it at all. What’s more, it’s more satisfying because you’re buying it yourself; you’ve earned it.
- Mentor someone years younger than you who is grappling with some of the same issues you did as a kid. Tell them, “You can do any goddamned thing you want in this life. Anything at all.” Substitute “darned” for “goddamned” if your mentee is under the age of 16. Don’t worry about instilling a false sense of security or entitlement in a youth–after all, you’re a Millennial. At one point or another, someone–be it a parent, a teacher, or even yourself–busted their ass to boost your self-confidence.
- Revisit the headlines and editorial cartoons that shook the world when you were five or six. The Lewinsky Scandal. Eric Rudolph’s abortion clinic bombings. Dennis Rodman in a dress. Apply what you now know about the complex way the world works to those images. Respect Monica for surviving both perjury charges and the court of public opinion at the tender age of 24. Acknowledge that, more than a decade later, abortion is still a violent point of contention in America. Admire Rodman for queering up the NBA long before Jason Collins came out. Find comfort in the fact that–despite how much chaos happened when you were a kid–you’ve since then accumulated the knowledge to comprehend it.
- Get closer. Call loved ones like it’s 1998. Don’t let the phone part of your iPhone scare you. Swallow the anxious lump in your throat. Ring the person you like who lives across the country, treasure the static that–in an era of high-def everything–still somehow exists in technology . Revel in the fact that, fifteen years ago, that hour-long phone call would’ve cost you hella long-distance charges and tangles in your phone’s curly cord. But in 2013, all it costs is three seconds of bravery.
- Get further. Make peace from a distance. Write letters without return addresses to the people who raised you, even if they are no longer fixtures in your life. Keep it simple: You did what you could, mom.
- Send long-winded letters to people who made a difference when you were a kid (put your return address on those).
- Try to remember the first time you reached out to someone on the Internet and–security controls and dial-up connection be damned–they saved your life.
- he next time you have a rough day, download that one–now condemnable–pop song from your tween years that reminds you of summer heat on the back of your neck. Listen to it on loop with eyes closed; let yourself feel breathless, like that time you and your best friend jumped relentlessly on her trampoline while singing the lyrics to Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” all wrong, despite everything around you feeling so right.
When it comes to matters of opinion, discover some of the most intriguing, informed points of view you’ll find anywhere — at The Opinionator, from The New York Times