Thursday, 17 September 2015

90s Nostalgia vs Present Day Mindfulness



Retro 90s! It’s all OVER the place at the moment! People are lapping up those Madchester tunes, baggy trousers, bucket hats and days when you could smoke anywhere you liked. This Is England 90! (Admittedly immense television viewing) TFI Friday! My MAD Fat Diary! 90s themed nights! 90s themed parties! There are even 90s Fashion revival boards all over Pinterest and Guardian articles extolling the virtues of a time before trolling.

This is a very strange time for me. My experience of the 90s was mostly brilliant but also a little bit mixed. I was a teenager for the most part (I was 16 in 1992) in school and then in Uni. So emotionally, seeing all of these programmes and getting caught up in the tidal wave of nostalgia isn’t a wholly pleasant experience. But then, is gorging on nostalgia ever a good thing?

Obviously being a teenager is an exciting but difficult time for anyone. Working out your place in the world, convinced you’re a “grown up” but without the knowledge, experience or confidence of real adulthood. I spent a lot of my time as a teenager rallying to be taken seriously as an adult whilst still acting like a spoilt child. A typical example of this: demanding to be allowed to go off in a van to Glastonbury at 17 with a bunch of men in their 20s (!) who all looked like they needed a bloody good wash, when I should have been on first-year exam duty in school! Amazingly I was allowed to go and had the best time of my life. I DID receive a lecture upon my return to school about irresponsibility and a detention to boot, but who cares?! I saw the Velvet Underground live! I lolled about in hippy fields and got lost in seas of tents and ate Japanese noodles and got drunk on cheapy flagons of cider and smoked 100 Marlboro reds! It was brilliant! (And it was 1993….years before rain destroyed the fields.)

At the same time however, I was too scared to use the phone. I would rather eat my own head than call for a taxi. I couldn’t have cooked a meal other than beans on toast (sufficiently) or washed my own clothes or sorted out bills and paid council tax or anything that real adults did. Well I could at a push. But I didn’t….my Mum did. Because really, I was still a kid.

And even when I went to Uni and had all the freedom and independence and learnt to do all the grown up things…I still wasn’t a properly formed adult. I still had a crippling lack of self-confidence, I still felt sick to death talking in lectures or god forbid, doing an actual talk. I still spent 90% of my time thinking no one REALLY liked me and ALL BOYS hated me (which to some extent was true, sadly). So when I hear the music from that time and see re-creations of nights out on TV the feelings I experience are fond but with a heap of sadness for the lost soul I felt between the ages of 16-21. My Mad Fat Diary was a particular trigger for this being focused on the life of a teenager in the mid-90s.

If you were a teen or at Uni in the 90s…. how do you feel about having all these feelings of the past resurrected so constantly at the moment?
And for everyone else who enjoyed the 90s and remembers them well, there must have been times during that decade that you’d like to forget too? A lot of the music is soul-searching and heart wrenching stuff….. Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine etc. I can’t imagine anyone listening to Kurt’s iconic unplugged cover of the “Man Who Sold The World” and feel anything other than desperate sadness, especially given how tragically his life ended.

And why do we have a need as a society to hark back so much to the past? I’ve definitely made the point before about how I feel like the world we live in is a much safer, more exciting time. But I also feel like we should be embracing the here and now. And there is some sciencey shiz to back me up on this thinking! Mindfulness has become a really powerful tool to help people to overcome anxiety. Anxiety is a scourge on our society right now with more and more people being diagnosed with stress related conditions, anxiety and / or depression. Mindfulness teaches us to be present and to stay focused on the here and now. It helps us to not focus on what happened in the past or worry about what will happen in the future. I also feel like, for those people who DO miss times past, their enjoyment of now and of future events will be tainted by this ache for something that cannot be recreated. I actually think It’s a bit irresponsible to present the past as perfect and scaremonger about how awful things are now.

No wonder the instances of stress and depression are on the rise if all we see are Vaseline-lensed nostalgia pieces, how fat the latest sleb has become or terrible global events CAUSED BY JONNY FOREIGNER! Surely we could do with more focus in the media of staying present in this moment and presenting a more positive outlook of the world we live in? Obviously I don’t mean ALL media coverage; I’m not talking about reporting news events from around the world or national politics etc. I’m talking opinion pieces, columns and TV programmes etc.

How about it? Come people, let’s start celebrating the greatness of today, today! Who’s with me?
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