A Selfish Article

On a Wonderful Childhood
August 17, 2020
Reflecting on a Wonderful Childhood

RetroJunk is one of those rare finds on the internet - a website that scratches that one itch you've had for years, but never realized you had it until you find it... and not porn-related.

I'm sure I've had the same experience most others on here have: I searched for some vague cultural reference that lingered in the back of my mind, came across this site and found my entire childhood categorized in alphabetical order. Since first coming here (2009ish?) I've seen damn near every commercial, article and ad from the 90's and early 2000's I retained even a vague memory of.

At first, it was a great trip down memory lane and incredibly refreshing, but eventually the shock of reminiscing wore off and I was almost left MORE wanting than when I started. Leaving just another high to chase. With most things, I forgot about this place.

I considered writing this article a few days ago when I re-discovered this site during my spare time on night-shift (which is a lot). The activity here has lessened significantly: less articles, comments and questions, the most popular and relatable experiences have been mentioned already years ago. It had its hayday, and now there's something bitter-sweet about this site.

It absolutely reminds me of childhood memories. Rosy-retrospection is alive and well.

I'm writing this article for my own selfish reasons: I need to jot my thoughts down, and doing it here will be more meaningful than a private Google Doc. The lack of activity is almost like posting on an empty board.

Earliest Nostalgia

I was born in 90, and I fell in love with Saturday mornings. Animaniacs, Batman: Animated Series, and the first Pokemon season were my jam. My dad and I would wake up early before the first cartoons started at around 5am, and we'd watch till around noon. My dad had recently returned from Korea and had separated with the Army. I hadn't seen him in a year. This was some of the most meaningful bonding time I ever had with anyone. I must've been around 6 or 7, very formative years for me. I don't know if my dad realizes it or not, and at this point I think it's too late to mention it. Our relationship is healthy, but doesn't leave space for extra emotions. And I'm ok with that.

Sunday nights were reserved for Fox Sunday. Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, Futurama, The PJ's (holy hell, remember that? Ha!) I doubt I've laughed as hard and as often as I did on those Sunday nights. It was a ritual my family had and brought us together for a short time, even if the TV was the medium for it.

These are some of the shows I watched and have fond memories of. But the meat-and-potatoes of my reminiscing lies with video games.

The beginning of my Gaming

Before dad left for Korea, he built his own PC and spent his fair share of time on it. Master of Magic, XCOM: UFO Defense, Warcraft II and eventually... STARCRAFT. My god, I spent so much time on these games later, when I actually had the manual dexterity to play them. As a kid, the best I could do was watch him play, which was just as satisfying. Something about these older games capture something that today's just can't. A buddy and I think that the lack of processing power forced companies to be more creative and basically put more "soul" into their games. Now, it seems like companies focus on graphics and making every blade of grass "lifelike". But such is life.

There was a hot minute where dad got the original Fallout game. Mom quickly banned the game from the house the first time she saw me cut a Super Mutant in half. More fond memories of staying up late after mom went to sleep and playing through Fallout. It's a shame to see where the franchise has gone, (Fallout 76 I'm looking at you).

And what 90's Baby's upbringing would be complete without the Gameboy?

The Rat Race for more AA Batteries

I will 100% attribute my reading ability to Pokemon Red. I still remember the moment I switched the text speed from Medium to Fast. I thought to myself "has the text scroll always been this slow? I must've been 7 or 8 years old.

There was something magical and mysterious about the first Pokemon games... What was Mewtwo actually? Is the Pokemon Lab on Cinnabar Island haunted? Do all Pokemon go to Lavender Town when they die? How do I get mew out from underneath the truck in the S.S. Anne's harbor?

I deeply engrossed myself with the lore. I bought a strategy guide for yellow, and I read that more than I actually played the game.

I actually found my old gameboy in my parents' garage recently. Sure enough, yellow was still in it, and the save battery dead. Still, it's nice to have around.

My First Console

In Middle School, I was introduced to the N64. Mario Kart, The World is Not Enough and, most importantly, Super Smash Brothers. The N64 had a whole slew of exclusive, forgettable games that me and a buddy of mine just flew through. Late Summer nights of Super Smash team-battles in that cramped little room (which was surprisingly cozy) played on a tiny little TV the size of our heads.

The LAN Era Begins

When I got into high school and started making some long-term friends, I was finally introduced to Halo 2 (totally missed out on Combat Evolved). Long, late hours of LAN parties and Mountain Dew Livewire. Keep in mind, these were the early days of online gaming, and we talked an incredible amount of trash to each other, both in LAN and online. These are some of the most memorable times of my life and I wouldn't trade the memories for anything. Something about dragging a trashy tube TV from one house to another will leave lifelong memories.

We make an effort to get together once an year and play some LAN games, but lives just become different and staying in touch gets more and more difficult.

High School

Eventually, Halo 3 and Gears of War took over in the Xbox360 era. Nothing will ever match the feeling of a chainsaw to a locust during a LAN party. Unless maybe sniping their head off from across the map.

Don't forget: always rush Boomshot

On my 16th birthday, I hosted a Halo 3 LAN party at my parents' house. At one point we had completely filled the local lobby with as many players as possible (16 people I think?), something none of us has been able to replicate since. Most chaotic, but most fun, matches we've had since.

Warcraft III is still an important part of my memories. Installing on laptops and playing Custom Games with each other, sometimes getting up to 12 people, physically, in the same room and on the same game. Footman Frenzy, DOTA, Orc Gladiators and Tower Defense of all sorts will forever be etched in my memory, as well as the particular build you had to follow in order to win them. Warcraft Reforged was a real shame. I'll forever be avoiding Battle.net so that I won't be bogged down with that mess of an update.

Even still today, when I hear those trumpets and drums from the Original Soundtrack, I need to stop. I can feel all those memories of me and my friends again, crammed into my bedroom, all with our own laptops, talking trash on each others' strategies. Here lies my strongest and most nostalgic memories.

That about sums up my nostalgia trip. It wasn't until I got older that I really appreciated what I had. A common occurrence, from what I've heard.

First Days as an "Adult"

I joined the Army right after High School. I spent a lot of time drinking and partying, which I absolutely needed to get out of my system. There were a few video games scattered throughout, but none really popped like the old days.

College started and I ran across the Elder Scrolls: Oblivion OST. Memories resurfaced that I forgot all about. This is when my nostalgia trip really began and lasted until just recently.

The feelings that the soundtracks gave me were what really sucked me in. It brought me back to those simpler years where the only thing you worried about was when school ended so you could spend time at your friends'. Oblivion in particular brought me back to a particular friend that I never really appreciated enough. He would bring his 360 over and set it up on my family TV. He finished Oblivion a few times and would let me play for hours on end, which was feasible at the time, because we were on summer break. He had another game he was engrossed in at the time on his own laptop. He was, and still is, a dependable guy. It's a shame how the lives of friends diverge from each other.

Which got me to thinking: it wasn't actually the games that I missed. It was the feelings they gave me, the environment they fostered, and the people I spent that time with. The games were only a medium through which we spent that time.

Recently, I went to a buddy's 30th birthday party. I had hyped it up for a year, and when it finally came time, it was incredibly underwhelming. I had expectations of getting those same feelings from when I was younger. But of course, we're older. My buddy has kids, I have a demanding job, my best friend has a house that needs a ton of upkeep.

My best friend and I had a 3 hour drive back. I had a lot of thoughts that needing sorting. We listened to early 2000's rock, the same music we bonded over when we first met (Shout-out to Linkin Park)

I had my emotional moments, but finally saw something I had missed until then: I was a kid.

When I say I was a kid, I mean that I had no responsibilities. Nobody that required effort and attention (wife), nothing looming over my shoulder after the party (work), nothing to maintain (health, house, pets, etc.) But at the same time, I love all those things.

There's a great feeling of satisfaction I always got when taking care of something. Even feeding our cat (the most obnoxious creature I've ever spent time with) is an arbitrary goal. It'll die someday, why bother with feeding it? I'll die someday, why bother with my health? My wife will die someday, why bother trying to keep her happy?

It's exactly because all these things will end that it's important to nurture and care for them. Just like your childhood ends and you become a productive member of society, laden with responsibility. Our time here is short, and in a roundabout way, it's our job to improve upon the environment around us.

These are all things that I never had to take care of as a kid. All I had to do was worry about myself and getting home before mom started dinner. It was a wonderful time, with plenty to do and experience. Freedom at its utmost. But with that freedom, comes a lack of meaning to life.

I look at my friends with kids and see the responsibility placed on them. But if instead, I were to look at them with a different filter, I can see them and their wives building these little people together and developing them into healthy and productive members of society. And when looking at these kids, I can see them going through the same experiences I went through at their age. Thinking further, my parents had the same sort of experiences I had. Maybe with less technology, but with the same emotional value.

Up until recently, I still had the mindset of a child: avoiding responsibility and looking for that next dopamine rush. There's always another party or new movie or new beer being released to sample. But where is the satisfaction from it? What's the endgame?

I'm almost ashamed to admit that it took me close to 30 years to realize that there's more to life than finding more fun stuff to do. If everyone had that mindset, I would never have actually had such a great childhood. It's the satisfying work and a job that's fulfilling that are what provides meaning to life. The movie Waiting comes to mind here, as the main character realizes that there's more to life than just working at the same restaurant he always has. Great movie by the way, absolutely underrated and an influence to my teenage years.

Let's Wrap this Up

This post has been much longer than I originally intended, but I needed to get this off my chest. Again, I don't expect many people to see this, I fully intend for this to be lost to time, and I'd prefer it that way. I do hope that it will make a positive impact on the lives of the handful of people that will see it, even if it only entertains for the moment. I'm satisfied with even the smallest benefit I can provide to others.

Thank you RetroJunk. In a small way, this website and the community that built it helped guide me from just being a child into a man. More importantly, the community here has provided me with easy access to my childhood. The shows, games, commercials, etc. that the people here have posted allow me to return to those times when I was young, dumb and full of... energy. I don't look at responsibility as a burden anymore: It's an opportunity for growth, not just for me but for the people, places, and environment around me. I'm glad a place like this exists and I can post selfish articles about my fulfilling childhood and the constant struggle to remember it.

I fully intend to come back here. Maybe not often, but whenever I get a wild hair or just need a quick nostalgia trip, I'll know exactly where to go. And while I won't be able to relive those same carefree moments I had as a kid, I can at least retire to my room, put on my headphones, pull up a playlist, close my eyes and allow myself to feel those memories and emotions again, appreciating that my childhood was as wonderful as I remember.

Maybe my next great duty will be to bring another into this world and give him/her the same quality upbringing that my family provided me.
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