Confession: I’m 95% sure that I was born in the wrong era. But the real question is, when and how exactly did I conclude that I should have been born forty-plus years ago?
I guess it all started with my parents. Growing up, my dad would love to say how much better it was back in the day during the mid-1980s and early 1990s when he was still in high school and college. Especially the music from that era. So, every time we went to go somewhere, the radio station we listened to was either boom 97.3 or 98.1 CHFI. Occasionally, my family would listen to CDs of 80s pop, jazz and R&B. We would watch reruns of sitcoms like Full House and Who’s The Boss during dinner. I swear half of my media consumption from four years old to nine years old was from that era alone. So you can see how much of an influence it had on me developing my own taste for music and film.
It was also the little things like the smell of my parent’s box of old cassette tapes, the mere sight of the oversized, baggy jackets they wore back then and still kept as well as the captivating stories they would tell that intrigued me about this particular time in history. And I admit, I was a sucker for my parent’s nostalgic stories. I still am!
If I had to pinpoint the year that I realized that I was born in the wrong decade, it would have to be 2014. After years of being fed 1980s and 1990s culture by my parents, grade six me started concluding that yup, I definitely would have loved to experience life thirty years ago. From there, my love for the era just grew.
Going Deeper Into The Rabbit Hole
Dreams of living in New York City in the mid-1980s to the early 1990s started to emerge having watched too many movies set there and then: Ghost, Frankie and Johnny, Three Men and A Baby, Do The Right Thing, When Harry Met Sally, Big, Coming To America, I could go on and on! These movies by the way are top-notch films that still stand the test of time, so definitely check them out. Not to mention the TV shows: Mad About You, Friends, Seinfeld, The Nanny…you get the gist.
The songs I listened to changed from Bruno Mars and Coldplay to Phil Collins and Whitney Houston. My favourite song of all time, ‘Ever Changing Times’ by Aretha Franklin featuring Michael McDonald, came out in 1991. Eventually, it even came to the point where just listening to mainstream radio pained me. I ask my parents to change it to boom 97.3. No matter how much I tried listening to K-Pop and rap and modern pop, I just did not have the taste for it.
That being said, there are a number of downsides to feeling like you should’ve grown up in another era. One downside? The number one thing would have to be that it’s really hard to relate to my friends when it comes to anything music-related. I love music, so the fact that even during semi-formal, I had to force myself to enjoy the songs that everybody was dancing to was not the best feeling that I had. But when that one Whitney Houston song came on, you can bet I savoured every second of it. When I did find that one friend of mine who knew who I was listening to, it was a very exciting moment for me to be able to geek out over who were in their prime thirty-plus years ago.
Another downside would be that there is this constant feeling of discontentment and lingering thoughts of why I can’t love this era as much as my friends and family do. There would be a sense of shame and embarrassment into confessing to others that you’re not cool and up-to-date with modern pop culture.
Am I romanticizing that era too much? No question about it! It’s hopelessly naive and imaginative to believe the era was just as I always dreamed it would be. But a part of me can’t help but wonder especially given where we are now in the middle of a global pandemic. What I would give to get into a time machine to just experience even a day…
That being said, it’s obvious that no time period is perfect, no matter how much we want to romanticize it. First off, the mid-1980s to early 1990s were basically all about greed, consumerism and capitalism. These were the Reagan-Bush (Sr.) years with a bit of Clinton in them. And as a liberal, it pains me to acknowledge this fact. The AIDS epidemic was at its height and people were still not comfortable talking about the LGBTQ+ community compared to how we are today. The films and TV shows set in the mid-1980s and early 1990s had characters who were more or less privileged than most, many times overlooking the less fortunate.
Don’t get me wrong! I do love this era we’re living in right now. Quality of life has never been at a higher level for a greater percentage of the human population. It seems as if more people are accepting and are open to differences now more than ever. We are more eco-conscious, and aware of how fragile our future is. The improvements in medicine and technology are nothing to scoff at. Also, streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus exist! And who could forget about the Internet and wifi! The irony is that without modern technology, I probably wouldn’t have thought that I was born in the wrong era in the first place. But is it perfect? No, but that’s okay.
Do I wish I loved this era as much as my sisters and my friends do? Of course! That being said, after years of inner struggle and personal embarrassment, I recently realized that I can’t force myself to like something I don’t. I can embrace both the old and new and still be proud of who I am. I can enjoy the late 1980s and early 1990s culture and that is a part of what makes me who I am.
So you might be like me and dreaming to experience life in another era, like the 1920s or 1970s. Embrace that about yourself because that is what makes you…you!