Monday, August 23, 2010

I Miss the 90s

I came of age in the nineties, and there are several things that I miss about it. I miss the fact that I could turn on the TV and watch actual sitcoms instead of a bunch of reality shows about spoiled housewives getting into catfights in fancy restaurants or people making fools of themselves for fifteen minutes of fame.

Back then, I think that the only reality shows that were really popular were the Real World and Road Rules, and that was when those shows were actually worth watching. Do you remember when the kids on the Real World were picked because they actually had jobs and had accomplished things, like the musicians, the playwright, the AIDS activist, and the comic book artists? Now the only requirement for cast members is that they look like models and make New Year's resolutions like, "This year I will stop making out with random strangers in bars" and "This year I will not get arrested for being criminally annoying" (I didn't even realize that was a crime until I read about Snooki of Jersey Shore fame), and "This year I will stop taking off my clothes in public".

I also miss the days when everyone wasn't permanently attached to their cell phones or laptops, and we actually could go through a whole day without using either. The Internet was only just beginning to be popular. I didn't actually start using e-mail until my junior or senior year of high school, and I actually thought that e-mail was just a lame fad that would go out of style fairly quickly, like clear Pepsi and Pauly Shore.

When I taught high school students, I once asked a group of them what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most of them said they wanted to be rich and famous. One student showed me rap lyrics that he had written and said that he wanted to be the next Jay-Z. Another student said he wanted to be like Donald Trump. Interestingly, none of them said they wanted to be teachers.

I'd grown fond of these students, partly because they didn't throw hissy fits over their grades and they didn't insist on calling me by my first name, unlike some of my college students. And I wanted their dreams to come true, even though I knew that the odds were stacked against them. They were still young enough to believe that they could have and be anything they wanted.

I think that's what I miss most about the nineties, which is when I came of age as a teenager. I don't miss high school, which I think of as four years of cliques, cruel gossip, and a sense of feeling lost. When I was in high school, I thought that once I finally escaped, I'd figure out what it was I wanted to do with my life. I thought that by the time I was thirty, I'd be an official adult and on a clear path to where it was I was supposed to be. (On the other hand, back in high school I also had crushes on Lance Bass from N'Sync and Ricky Martin, both of whom turned out to be gay, so a lot of what I thought back then turned out to be wrong.)

But then I started college. And I soon came to learn that I couldn't be anything I wanted to be. Unlike what I'd been told in high school, it wasn't enough just to get good grades and work hard. I found out that it was harder than I thought it would be to get a job as a lawyer, or an editor, or a professor. And many of my college classmates came to the same realization; at least half of the people I knew ended up changing their majors.

I pursued my dream of becoming a professor, and it came with a lot of good experiences. But it also meant giving up on a lot of things, and it also means that at age twenty-nine, I'm still in grad school, still working minimum-wage jobs, and still feeling lost. I miss that belief I had back in the nineties, when I thought anything was possible. Back then I didn't think of all the reasons why my dreams couldn't come true.

And now when I listen to my students talk about what they hope their futures will be like, part of me is tempted to let them know what it will really be like. But I don't say anything. I don't want them to lose that hope.

What about you? Is there anything you miss from the 90s? Aside from the boy bands, I mean.


  1. I feel the same way about cell phones and the internet. I hate now that because everyone expects you to have a phone on your person 24/7 then surely you must answer the phone every single time it rings. I miss the days of being able to choose not to answer the phone just because you didn't feel like talking at that moment, and people didn't take it as an insult. I miss TGIF television when we really sat down in front of the TV to watch G-rated shows like "Full House" and "Family Matters." I miss baseball before the steroids scandals. I miss Oprah before she decided to get all politically affiliated... I could probably go on for hours.

  2. You're a far better person than most of the professors I ever had...

  3. Hmmm what do I miss about the 90's? Not much. It was an unhappy decade in my adult life, although there was much to be thankful for, I had a bad attitude through must of the decade. I miss the 80's. Now THEY were fun!

  4. It seems like, in general, people were more optimistic and had better attitudes in the 90's. Plus, we can call it "the 90's"...what are we going to call the years 2000-2010?

  5. Road Rules with the Aids activist? I loved him. That's when the show was good.

    I loved the feeling of the 90s. Too bad I was poor then even if many others were prospering. I spent way to much time in school and studying. The whole decade pretty much. On the upside, I was much younger.

  6. Hi Melanie,
    I'm not a big fan of cell phones either; I don't even like talking on the phone. Remember when it was only supposed to be used for emergencies? Now it's like everything's an "emergency".

    Hi Geophrie,
    Aw, thanks!

    Hi KarenG,
    I don't really miss the 80s, because I had a bad perm back then. I didn't like the music, except for Michael Jackson's songs.

    Hi Stefanie,
    I'm not sure what we're supposed to call the years 2000-2010. I think some people call it the Millenium. Or should it be the OOs?

    Hi Theresa,
    I spend way too much time in school too, and I'm also broke most of the time. But then again that's probably because I spend most of my money on Frappuccinos.

  7. This takes me right back to the 90s when I thought email was a great way to save on postage stamps! I like how you thought it was a fad--I can see that line of thinking!

    You're so right about Real World & Road Rules being a little bit more substantial back then. Great observation!

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