Millennials Are Remembering the "Good Old Days" Way Too Early in Their Lives

I am just about halfway between 24 and 25. An age I would consider to be slightly matured adulthood. At this point, my parents had had my sister and I would be just a couple more years away. If being an adult (starting at 18) was a marathon, I would be hitting my stride between the sixth and seventh miles.

So here I am.

As I reflect on my current age and occupation, it becomes apparent that I am around an age that I have envisioned for a long time growing up. Where I am now was in many ways a destination or an ideal arrival point. Growing up, I was very much a product of my parents and I realized that growing up. There was always a set of things that I knew would at some point factor into my life but I never really thought I’d realize they were happening. I thought they would just happen without me even noticing at some point down the road.

Do you know what I mean?

I think you do. It is the process of realized aging. Like eating shredded wheat, realizing it is shredded wheat, realizing that’s what older people do and knowing that you were always going to be eating shredded wheat. It’s being self-aware of things you knew you’d be doing, only they are coming a bit sooner than expected and you are realizing them in real-time.

I’ll give you an example:

Listening to NPR

I’ll start with an obvious one to get into explaining this phenomenon I speak of. Listening to NPR is the stuff of dads. It’s what older people do, particularly parents. It’s the fifth and sixth hours of a car-ride home from Maine. It’s Saturday morning after you put your check from your first job in your new savings account and you have to wait in the parking lot for ten minutes while the car-talk guys finish laughing and you can finally get your ride back home. It is that droning monotone chatter of morning news. It is the surprisingly sexy voice of Eric in the Evening with his jazz while you do homework in the kitchen.

And all the while it was something that I knew I too would be doing someday. Whether I wanted to or not, I knew that I too would be giving money to NPR.

Then that someday became now. I was listening to This American Life last weekend and I gave money because Ira asked for it. I find myself listening to the news of the world delivered every afternoon on a finally manicured playlist from npr.org and I am self-aware of it. I am listening to NPR and I always knew I would, but how could it have happened so soon and with me actually realizing it?

This process of realized aging goes hand in hand with nostalgia.

If there is one thing my generation does well, it is have unwarranted nostalgia for things that did not happen all that long ago. We are a generation that lives in a self-created bubble of nostalgia that we can’t help but engage in. I never had cable growing up, but from what I have observed, it is like mentioning Legends of the Hidden Temple (or in my case, Arthur the Aardvark). People just know it, laugh and say something like, “Oh, yeah.”

It’s self-deprecating and kind of hip and completely enjoyable. But, ultimately, it is making all of us sound like a bunch of old people. But why stop now? Here are a couple recent realizations I had of moments that happened far sooner than I expected.

A mini-list:

1. Goldeneye Nostalgia

The fact that simply reliving Goldeneye could carry 30 minutes of a dinner conversation is something I always knew would happen, but I thought it would have been just a little further down the road. Like a back in the day moment, but back in the day would be really back in the day, five more years from now at least; I mean N64 is not that old right? When people realize they all had N64, the conversation immediately moves to the near universal love of Ocarina of Time, possibly a few shout-outs to Mario 64, Star Fox, and Super Smash Brothers and then, inevitably, onto Goldeneye.

Goldeneye is always last because it is the pinnacle we all knew we’d arrive at. Growing up and playing it when it was new, I knew then sitting in my basement with my neighborhood friends that it was going to be something we’d talk about as old men. It was a game that had classic status the minute you made it to the end of the runway and jumped off the dam.

But, noticing the power of reliving the game was something I never thought would happen so soon. The way we all experimented with placing proximity mines with the invisibility cheat on right next to a scientist and then shooting their hand to make them jump into the mine. Or how it felt to go through the Facility with invisibility on armed with nothing but a hunting knife and then let the alarm sound and explode the gas tanks letting the room slowly fill with thick green smoke as you fight hoards of Russian soldiers.

I knew Goldeneye was something special. I always knew there would be a bond forged in that game that we would embrace in the future, but to happen at 24 is something I could never have seen coming. Hell, my game still plays fine with a couple of blows into the cartridge.

2. Windows 95

While on the topic of games, it has come to my full realization how fondly I speak of Upper Hoguesville in SimCity. In the wake of the brutal and violent collapse of Hoguesville and the near unanimous show of disapproval of their mayor (me), Upper Hoguesville rose up to the north of the city as a powerful and dynamic metropolis. I am not shy to brag about the near-utopian status of my city and that is certainly not something that I thought I would be doing this soon in my life.

Granted, when Windows 95 was out, it was hard to imagine how computer games or the internet could get any better or faster.

In fact, my cousin recently posted a screen shot of the mines level in Rebel Assault II where you drive the Millennium Falcon. Does anybody remember that game? It was like a flood of memories washed over me. I remembered the finished basement where the family computer was, I remembered all the different phases of the level, I remembered the intense pressure that mounted when I only had one rebel symbol left indicting my last life. Times were tough.

But, this shouldn’t be happening. How can such strong feelings of nostalgia be gripping me now? Am I really this far down the road?

Ah. Nostalgia: The one, frozen piece of ourselves that will never age along with everything else. It’s the reason why I will always know every word of every Less Than Jake song (until Anthem, nothing newer).

It seems like since the end of the 90s, there has been a rush to push things forward as a collective nostalgia much quicker than generations of the past. So much of our social sharing is devoted to how we remember the old days that I am not really sure I am ready to remember them as that old yet.

Should I really be remembering Goldeneye like it was the first house I bought on Maple Street forty years ago? And the worst part is that it sneaks up on you! I couldn’t help but dive headfirst into our debate over whether license to kill mode with slappers only was better than choosing golden gun mode in multiplayer. It felt good. It felt so long ago and it felt like such a simple, bygone time; but it wasn’t.

Maybe it comes with the territory of growing up too fast or perhaps it is from growing up too slow. Maybe it is because N64 was really that awesome. Maybe it was because Less Than Jake will always be the best band that was ever formed. Maybe we never really topped Windows 95. Everything could just be too much of a copy of a copy these days (we made the original copies) and all that is left to do is remember.

Nostalgia has a place, I just never thought it started this early.