I’ve never been particularly nostalgic. While I understand people’s need to linger over remembering moments in their life, for some reason I seem to be shark like, constantly having to move forward in order to survive. It might be the fact that for most of my youth I was drunk or perhaps because I lived it through a blurred state of fear. I was on my own very early in life and had to scramble constantly to pay my way forgetting that the ages between 17 – 25 was supposed to be the time in life where I figured out stuff.
Instead I was like many people of my generation, still influenced by punk’s anti-success stance believing that one could have a creative life keeping their ambitions small and specific, local and generous. Without the internet we came of age by cobbling together our social lives through land lines, fax machines and mostly instinct. Our events and activities were hand made, hand drawn, word of mouth, vintage store bought and duct taped. I learned a myriad of skills, one of them being how to use a computer entirely on my own. So, I have a fairly strong ability to DIY things if needed.
Although I may be able to describe and explain my early, restless youth away on such things, I do not feel like spending any more time than I have to remembering and waxing nostalgic on how “it was better in my day” kinds of thinking. It wasn’t better and I wince at the many stupid things I did while thinking at the time I was being “innovative.” I will defend one aspect of my wistful youth; I loved all things alternative and so did my friends. In fact the alternative scene of the 80s and 90s is why I probably love the things I do today. It’s why I can’t watch Dancing with the Stars or other reality TV shows; I don’t know who anybody is. Until Bob Mould or Elizabeth LeCompte appears on those programs I will forever be mystified. Please also don’t tell me they have…
But I recently began toying with the idea of revisiting an older version of my self and it’s been fun but also somewhat painful as my old bits and pieces of my early life seem like lost opportunities. What I am finding shows a young woman full of creativity and ambition but without any sense of what to do with it. People forget that without the internet there wasn’t really any way to connect to mentorship programs unless you went out and joined one physically; today you can find so many groups, articles, forums, and organizations that you can troll until you feel comfortable enough to join.
My life then shifted around like a fox looking for food. I tried all sorts of things and enjoyed all of them – painting and writing are the things that have stuck. Going back through this scrapbook-style life with no discernible career trajectory isn’t pleasant but in an odd way it has also been empowering. We tend to think that our lives are supposed to be built on our hard work and our judgement. What about the mistakes we’ve made or the weird paths taken because we didn’t think linearly? This is what is wrong with that HBO show Vinyl – punk and alternative culture burbled up like a spring, it didn’t explode onto the rock scene, and no one cared about it until over ten years later, including Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger. It was a spore that grew into its own ecological arena.
I see very clearly now that in retrospect I was actually being courageous, not timid. I was trying things and using my youth and energy to experiment. It’s why I have such a steady hand on what I am doing now. Perhaps one of the sea changes we are seeing today is that young people can no longer afford to have such freedom; their tuition makes it prohibitive for them doing anything but paying it off the minute they leave school. And, the social & work pressure to be a ‘viral’ success means they need to spend their time making sure they are branding themselves for that. But maybe this is a good direction? Hard to tell. We are definitely transitioning culturally, but into what?
In any case, I’ve never really wanted to time travel. As Louis CK said, unless you are a white male why would you want to live or even visit at any other time than now? Going back into my own time is an exercise in realizations and evaluations. My failures are my moments of learning, my successes such as they were are triumphs and my path, a road less travelled with many moments of getting lost. With this comes wisdom? The jury is still out on that.