Ever look at the trending topics list on Twitter to see what the perfunctory social network’s users are talking about? Each new trend is like a flash mob that the Twitter biomass collectively contributes to for five, ten, maybe fifteen minutes before it slowly dissipates and then winks out of existence. Many of them are completely insane, vacuous, even racially offensive, and as such, I almost never contribute to them. But for a few minutes this afternoon, #thingsisaidinthe90s was at the top of the trend list. This, as they say, is relevant to my interests.
Just this morning I was doing some serious nostalgic stargazing back at the ’90s. Understand, when I actually was in the ’90s, I never thought I would do this. I can’t think of any time in my life, before or since, when I have been so angry at life, felt so marginalized by society, and was generally disgusted with everything around me save a small subset of people and things. But the ’90s were also when I started to keep records — journals, audio recordings, actual creative things that I had produced — and when I look (or listen) back at those things now, the rose-colored glasses go into full effect and I wonder if it was really all so bad after all.
It was, of course. At least, to my teenage self’s mind, there was absolutely no greater hell on Earth than high school. Of the admittedly cushy life I’ve led, my high school years remain my least favorite. And yet incongruously, those years were also when I met some of my best friends, played some of the most memorable video games and explored my most diverse spectrum of hobbies. I dove into game programming and level design, I got heavily into anime (went to conventions and everything!), met people in chat rooms, engaged in video game tournaments and wrote stories like they were going out of style. With the exception of writing — and even that has been scaled back greatly — I don’t do any of those things anymore.
Granted, I’ve got new things to focus on now. The obligations of life that naturally come with adulthood — work, paying the bills, keeping up the homestead, fixing the car, that sort of stuff — naturally represent a significant portion of my time. With a newborn son at home, there’s also a whole new universe of shared hobbies and experiences that I’m eagerly awaiting the chance to introduce to him. Beyond that, I’m mostly too engaged in playing today’s incredibly huge selection of video games to worry about modifying them. And since I turned to console gaming a few years back, modifying today’s games is mostly impossible anyhow.
But it’s fun to look back at what I was doing in the ’90s, both as a source of amusement and a motivator for myself today. I was into so many things back then, what would be the harm in rediscovering some of that old hallowed ground now? Or even exploring new territory altogether? Even as recently as 2004, creating levels for the 1992 PC game Wolfenstein 3-D was as much therapeutic as it was anything else. It might be fun to get back to that from time to time. Or do some more serious story writing. Or blogging; at least then I’d be writing something. I’ve also recently toyed with the idea of going back to Tumblr and trying to find some sustainable use for it, because I still crave the concept of a microblogging platform with a complexity somewhere between Twitter and Oddball Update.
This morning I was listening to some audio recordings I made exactly 17 years ago, during this week of April in 1995. It was one of those heady times from my high school years when I had a week off for Easter, my parents had gone on vacation out of state, and I was spending nights at my grandmother’s house and days at home alone, whooping it up with computer games and Star Trek marathons and whatever the hell else. My parents’ acquaintances were always shocked to learn that they would frequently go off on trips and leave me at home by myself for hours, even days at a time. “Isn’t he going to tear up the house? Wreck the car? Do something illegal?” they all asked. In truth, about the most trouble I’d get into when I had the homestead to myself was eating too many Awrey’s cake doughnuts. I was too busy with my 486 DX2/66 to get into mischief of the traditional teenage variety.
I sound like an total dork on those recordings from 1995, a kid who thought he was way cooler than he actually was. But there’s an unchecked enthusiasm there that’s so genuine, unmarred by the outward reservation I usually apply toward anything I enjoy today, lest someone think me foolish. In retrospect, I envy it. And I think Steve Jobs was right when he encouraged those Stanford graduates to “stay hungry, stay foolish.” If you don’t, you risk tamping yourself down so far that you can no longer recognize a great idea — and you certainly can’t create greatness if you’re afraid to admit what you think it is.
So maybe it isn’t a bad thing to look back at the past for ideas about how to enrich life in the present. Perhaps a good start would be to rediscover some of the creative pursuits I used to undertake more often in those days. Game design? Creative writing? Journaling? Whatever; it’s got to be more fulfilling than sitting around consuming the fruits of someone else’s labor.
Just let me get through Mass Effect 3 first.
And as for that Twitter trending topic? Here are some actual #thingsisaidinthe90s:
- I really need a modem with a 16550 UART.
- Why won’t the Wolfenstein 3-D source code compile? Friggin’ Turbo C isn’t cutting it!
- This $15 I’ve got left in my wallet should be just enough to fill my car up with gas. I’ll get some after school on my way to pick up lunch at Bullet Bell. 12:50 schedule days rock!
- Rise of the Triad shareware is 5 MEGS? I’d better start downloading it this morning before I go to school if I have any hope of playing it tonight!
- I’m on the Internet, fragsters! Email me at blaze at oeonline com! (I thought that eventually people would stop pronouncing the “dot” in “.com” when giving out their email addresses and URLs, as if it would be assumed. It was a stupid thought.)
- Have you played Doom yet? I’ll bring it in on a floppy disk if you want to try it.
- Hmm, I’d like to play The Legacy tonight. Better find that boot disk so I can free up 628K conventional.
- Hey Damon, what’s up. Is my Trans Am in yet?
- I’d like to go on the Internet now, but I can’t because Mom’s on the phone…
- There’s no way I’ll ever fill up this 1 GB hard drive!
- Is The Next Generation a rerun this week?
- I will move heaven and earth to be with this girl I just met. She says she’s from Thailand…