Someone accused me of sounding like one of those older folks who lament how the young whippersnappers just don’t understand anything or appreciate what they’ve got nowadays.
It might be true.
I’m only 54, but when I think of all the changes that have transpired since my youth to now, it’s hard not to shake my head and feel these newer generations have really missed out.
The truth is, I love how I was raised in the 70s. Most of the kids I knew had a pretty ideal childhood. We played hard, were given a long leash to roam and aside from a few chores and going to school, had a lot of time to ourselves. In my neighborhoods, we’d gather in packs and generally stay out all day playing in streets and backyards, on school playgrounds, in nearby parks and at each other’s houses. We’d make it back before dinner and sometimes head outside for a nighttime game of kick the can or hide and seek.
Even though we had one TV, there wasn’t much on except for cartoons on Saturday mornings and some cool shows like “Star Trek” and “Happy Days” and the Sunday night lineup of “Wild Kingdom” followed by “The Wonderful World of Disney.” Even after the first video game came out—Pong—we weren’t glued to the screen maneuvering it.
No one played sports year round; we did it for fun. Some kids participated in organized sports, but it was balanced, not the crazy schedules and leagues happening nowadays where it’s hard for any sport to be strictly recreational.
And let’s just chat about the phone for a minute. There was one, and it was plugged firmly into the wall. I loved getting phone calls, and I remember my excitement the Christmas I received a phone to place in my room, but it was used fairly sparingly because my friends and I were together often.
Crushes and break-ups are still a thing of glory and angst today, but even that was better years ago, because you couldn’t text, sext, friend, unfriend, like or block anyone at your whim. There was no incessant communication or social media. There was just agonizing alone time, wondering how the other person was getting along without you and after a break-up, the hope you wouldn’t have to see your ex with someone else at school.
Going to a movie was a pretty big deal, too. There were no VCRs or DVD players, no computers, no Internet. You could catch an old movie on television but the only place to see a new release was at the theater or drive-in. Lines would stretch around the theatre for big films like Star Wars and ET, and they’d play for long stretches. Many theaters were grand, set-up to show one movie at a time to a large audience vs. the small, multiplexes of today that air a new release for one week. Other things we did for fun (for ten bucks or less) was see a rock concert, ski at a major resort all day or snag a bleacher seat at a Major League Baseball game.
Things are different now, both better and worse.
My first concern is how do people appreciate what they have if they have no idea what life was like before it was invented? I’m not sure they can. My second is what happened to intention? I’ve watched kids and adults glom on to technology and lifestyle changes as soon as they’re mainstream. There’s no deliberate thought or questions. Should I use this gizmo? How should I spend my time? How does my behavior or choices affect my relationships with others? What are my values and goals, and does this fill-in-the-blank thing fit in with them or erode them?
I also see fewer people being thoughtful about opinions or making an effort to hunt down their own facts (reading something online, source unknown, does not make it a fact) or believe whatever their mother/ significant other/ candidate/ relative believes.
It’s all a tad unnerving, especially when some inventions and practices dumb us down.
I want our younger generations (actually, all generations) to wake up, think for themselves, be gutsy, question convention, live purposefully and not head down the path of doing what everyone else is because it seems easy or the least resistant. And I would love people to incorporate the best of yesterday and today because they find value and fulfillment in it.
If we can do that, I’ll be spared the path of self-righteous “when I was a kid” storyteller and the world will be a better place. Or maybe I’ll just keep my mouth shut and revel in smelling the sweet honeysuckles in bloom and wearing my cutoffs like the 70s kid I am.
This column was printed in The Journal on Sunday, June 10, 2018.
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