This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
As we barrel into 2019, a lot of us might be asking some pretty tough questions of ourselves and the world. For example, we might be wondering what the exact timeline for world destruction due to climate change is going to be, whether we’ll be able to afford an apartment bigger than an outhouse one day, and at what point neo-fascism will spin itself into a completely totalitarian regime requiring citizens to uniform themselves in barf-green jumpsuits and style their hair like Donald Trump.
In other words, we have a few concerns about the state of the world. Modern, adult life is a far cry from the days when misspelling “tongue” in front of the class was our biggest woe, and wasting time meant spending forty-five minutes making a superhero out of string cheese, instead of two hours lost to googling the symptoms of Syphilis.
I know that dwelling on amorphous future disasters is not necessarily productive, nor is it conducive to our collective mental health, but neither is yearning for the past, which always looks a bit shinier than it was in actuality. Nostalgia is the Gingham filter we put over our childhoods, and it makes all the slinkies and Spice Girl CDs and afternoons spent watching cartoons while devouring a log cabin of taquitos seem even more blissed-out.
That said, if we can’t look back on our childhoods, and the experiences, objects, and terrible fashion decisions that made us the generation we are today, then I think we risk losing a lot. It’s good to remember who we were if only to understand who we are and maybe even who want to be in the future. Maybe I’m starting to sound like a poorly written self-help book, but still, there’s no shame in mentally retreating into the womb of childhood and just hanging out there for a while. It’s pretty cozy in there.
So in service of retrospective happiness, VICE decided to ask millennials to tell us about the one thing they miss most from childhood. As you might expect, it’s not all Furbies and mood rings. Some of us miss, well, optimism. Wasting time. The ability to feel high from a bowl of Corn Pops or a Capri Sun. All this to say, my attempt to write an article free of cynicism didn’t quite work. But maybe that’s on-brand for my generation?
Making mailboxes out of construction paper and taping them to the sides of our desk. And finding a note in said mailbox reading “I liek u do u liek me?” and going full-on detective with your friends to figure out who put it in there. —Molly, 24
Maybe I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back I miss how so many things were the first time I did that thing. I went into things not comparing them to anything. Living in the moment. There’s something zen about childhood. Like now I’ll go on vacation and be like, “the beach was nicer in Panama than here.” How shitty is that? I never had those thoughts as a kid. —Tyler, 25
I’d say snap bracelets, collecting and sharing fuzzy and oil stickers, the original Nintendo handheld game console—for Tetris—free fake diamond rings at the dentist office instead of miniature dental health items, covering textbooks with paper and personalizing them, comfortable hoodies, walking to school with neighborhood friends, no such thing as email or instant messaging, and the hope of owning land in Vancouver. —Carys, 37
Being overwhelmed with excitement and running outside to greet my dad when he came home from work. This kind of makes me sound like a dog. —Luke, 29
The optimism of the 90s. I hate to hop on the “9/11 Changed Everything” train but I can distinctly remember an emotional shift in how the adults in my life viewed the world and my own experiences in it. I think there was less ironic cynicism about the state of the world, and the ability to fix the compounding problems of the world seemed more within our grasp. For example, the Kyoto Protocol seemed like something we could actually meet, and systemic poverty was something we could eradicate. —Peter, 29
I miss eating nine pieces of Crazy Bread, washing it down with a Grape Crush, then begging for an extended 9 PM bedtime because that’s when Survivor—my favorite TV show back then—aired. I also miss falling asleep with the family cat on my stomach instead of a computer. —Nicole, 27
Polly Pockets! I loved the little, contained worlds with all of the trinkets and lights and switches and exciting hidden features in each home or set. And unlike other girls’ toys at the time, they didn’t project a lot of romantic love or sexualization onto me at an age where it wasn’t necessary, like Barbies or Bratz do. I loved using my imagination to create plot lines for entire neighborhoods. It was really creative for me and my sisters. We’d lose hours to Polly Pockets. —Florence, 26
The giant tub of legos that I sold for video game money when I was 13. —Eva, 33
I miss when bread was still good for us. —Bailey, 26
Tamagotchis! I think I had like four. I loved seeing something go from an egg to a hand-held pet before your very eyes and knowing it was yours to love and take care of forever—or at least until it ran out of those stupid circular batteries. Sometimes I wish I were a tamagotchi now. Imagine making your happiness, hunger, and discipline meters full with the click of a button. —Rachel, 26
My best friend Robert and I used to walk home from school together every day. We acted like old men grabbing beers after work, except instead of going to a bar, we’d go to one of our houses, grab a couple of cokes from the fridge and watch The Simpsons. We did that almost every day. I guess I miss the consistency of friendships back then. As you get older it gets harder and harder to connect with people, especially your friends. I don’t see a lot of my best friends for months at a time. Everyone is so busy now. There was just more time back then. —Carter, 29
Winter. I miss having enough snow to feel “Canadian.” I also miss the ability to waste time without feeling crippled by guilt. —Braden, 25
Never thinking about the amount of toilet paper I have. —Matty, 33
My light bright set. The tiny pegs I left scattered on the carpet destroyed my father’s feet and sense of calm but it was well worth it. —Anonymous, 25
My GameBoy Advance and all its games. I lost half of them at my community pool and the other half I sold to a local retro game store for money for a school trip to Disneyland. —Molly, 23
I miss all the people you know and love being in the same place, so you could visit or not, as you like. It feels much harder to find time to see or keep in touch with casual acquaintances as an adult. —Dylan, 29
I had this little cereal-box toy prize that was Cinderella-themed. It was a plastic rectangle, cassette-sized, and it had this slightly incorrect portrayal of Cinderella and the palace and I think the prince, and when you pressed a button it would say things like “a dream is a wish your heart makes.” Somehow, one day, it got lost. —Liv, 25
Dick pics not being a thing. I also miss making plans in advance! Not just “I’ll text you tomorrow and we’ll meet up” but having an actual time and place decided on days ahead of time. Also, the band Billy Talent. —Rose, 29
Mini-golf. It is an undeniably strange pastime, but somehow mini-golf has the power to bring a lot of diverse people together into a relatively neutral arena. When I was mini-golfing on my birthday, I could invite different friend groups and not worry about anyone feeling weird about it. When my dad and brother and I went, there was an odd sense of peace there. For 18 holes, we had precise goals, and conversation didn’t stray from our little strategies and little putter strokes. Some of the first boy-girl parties I went to involved mini-golf, as though it were some sort of stress-free, gender-inclusive environment. —Sam, 24
My childhood imagination being alive. I’m constantly fighting to keep it alive. I believe it’s possible to have that creative, awe-inspired dreaminess carry with you over time, but it can take work and practice. Children have such a remarkable ability to animate any object. Anything can be a toy. Anything and everything is magical. Everything and everyone can be your friend. Also—I wish I didn’t know what a computer was. —Anita, 23
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