Oops, There Goes the 90s!

It’s 2019 and I’m still slaying vampires, listening to “Bye, Bye, Bye” and shouting “Mortal Kombat” out my car window.

Illustration by Alinna Boonklun

There are many wonderful moments during the 90s-early 2000s that a lot of millennials remember fondly throughout their childhood. Most of us remember the fashion trends that included the copious amounts of denim jeans and ramen colored bleached hair that were in style at the time. Not to mention the jumpsuits that were sleek, but oh so comfortable to wear. Music was definitely peaking with iconic artists like Britney, Mariah, and Beyonce.

Unfortunately, that decade went completely over my head.

I never grew up with a radio and missed a lot of music at that time. My sister took pity on me and gifted me her portable one when I was 15, so I was finally able to keep up with the times. I did however have access to basic cable and my Saturday morning cartoons, so I was able to keep up with the most “cultured” forms of entertainment out there. And by cultured, I mean excessive episodes of “Power Ranger” and “Pokemon” to talk about with my school chums on the playground. No sense living like a complete hermit.

Video games also littered my childhood years all the way up to the present day where I’m still looking up the hottest games to play. I remember spending so many hours on my PlayStation playing “Final Fantasy VII” and drowning out the rest of the world to be immersed in this magical, fantasy world full of endless adventure and possibilities. I woke up almost every morning and played until the sun had past set and it was way past a kid’s bedtime before I went back to sleep. I repeated the same process all over again, even if the game or console had changed over the years. Ahh, those were the days.

But as I sit here trying to remember why I have so many gaps of the world in my mind (aside from the gaming aspect of things at that time), there’s a few hazy memories that are coming back to me. Hysterical screaming from my mother and plates or furniture crashing onto the walls fill some of the blank spaces in my mind.

The stench of booze and regret from my father as he wobbles home from another long night at the horse track with no life changing results. Another slot that pieces my past memory together. The numerous times Dad would take me with him to the track for “good luck” (even though I hated it) and would “borrow” my allowance to win big.

But we’d both lose in the end.

I saw so many sad men stinking of smoke and putting all their hopes on a race horse, then breaking down after the race is over with tears in their eyes. That’s the most prevalent memory I have of the 90s growing up.

As much as I love video games, I think I used them as a crutch to not deal with the issues that were happening at home. To bury the truth, I took myself out of the equation and inserted my life into fictional worlds where I would escape. In these games, I could be a knight saving an entire kingdom in one day. Another day I could be capturing super powered creatures to battle kids my age. The possibilities of living different lives and exploring multiple worlds were endless!

But there’s one important life I neglected that doesn’t get more than one stock : my own.

Over the years, I began to be more of a recluse in my own life. Because of everything that was going on at home, I isolated myself from my family and most of the world. My lack of world knowledge and popular trends grew exponentially during this time. Speaking to anyone who didn’t understand my gaming jargon was out of the question and not an option worth investing my time in. I didn’t know how to relate to people when I wasn’t confident enough to converse with others. My fear of human interaction kept getting worse until the idea of talking to people seemed like an abstract concept. So I finally stopped trying. My gaming consoles became my new best friends.

I thought I was being tough and protecting myself by being alone. But really, I was just scared of getting hurt outside of my home, too.

It wasn’t until high school that I finally started interacting with other people. Real, actual living people who weren’t encased inside a fancy looking cartridge or sleek CD rom! I had joined marching band and had pushed myself to join the school’s theatre program to explore my creative interests. That’s when I realized that like it or not, you’re gonna have someone start talking to you after being around each other for numerous hours throughout the day. But what really surprised me was not only did these strangers share my interests, they didn’t berate me for my lack of knowledge outside of video games. They were nonjudgemental and were eager to explain or show me what I was missing out on.

For the first time I didn’t feel like a total airhead. I felt wanted and like I belonged.

It took years of being around friends who were my chosen family to accept the realities of the world. Through them, I learned basic emotional principles like love, compassion, and patience towards other I hadn’t experienced before. And let me tell ya, a bunch of sweaty high school band kids changing in a bus after a marching performance? You’d better believe I learned a LOT about patience with the amount of B.O. that permeated the air during those field trips. And how to breathe with my mouth open. Instead of burying myself in fictional universes, I slowly began to escape my mental prison and accept the world for what it is, imperfections and all.

I’m still learning how to keep up with the current generation and not bury myself in a virtual reality to keep up with pop culture and today’s generational trends. Memes and viral videos are being shared faster than the common cold and the content is changing on the daily. So keeping up with people’s interests is definitely a challenge.

But I at least watched last week’s newest episode of Game of Thrones and have talked to a few random strangers about it. I’d say I’m not fairing too badly, in that case. I’m also rediscovering things I missed in the 90s-2000s decade with fresh eyes. For instance, did you know that the difference between N’Sync and Backstreet Boys is that Justin Timberlake is in one of the two groups? Bet I can tell ya which one he’s in!

I still think about missing the 90s from time to time, mostly on days where I reminisce about my childhood. Though I experienced a few cultural phenomenons during that decade, a lot of my memories back then are bittersweet and painful to remember. But because of my past, I’ve learned that it’s better to be present and learn as much as you can about the world than bury your head in the sand.

I’d rather be informed and connect with others and our current generational trends than remain isolated by choice. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s some Bob’s Burgers memes that sorely need my attention.