I was born in 1971, which means I am a true child of the 80’s. If you were born in the 80’s, sorry, it doesn’t count the same. You were just getting started. Meanwhile, I was sprouting hairs down there, riding out the angst of adolescence to the beat of Def Leppard and REO Speedwagon and driving around in a tree scented white Camaro with Rockaberry Cooler discreetly stashed between my legs. While you were learning to tie your shoes, I was outsmarting the local police department, and sporting stupidly teased bangs. I am a product of the 80’s. Not only was I raised in all its neon and hair teasing splendor, but I also survived to tell the tale.
Bad decisions were the norm in the 80’s, but quite frankly, we just didn’t know any damn better.
Nobody wore helmets while riding bikes. If you had even dared to wear one (wondering now if they had even been invented yet), you would have been mercilessly ridiculed by your friends until you relented and put your social status ahead of your personal safety, by removing your helmet. Once we were on our bikes, the wind blew so hard into our eyes we couldn’t see through the tears, as we laughed and screamed our way down the steep hills of the back roads of our little town. We didn’t have a single care in the world.
We rode on lawn chairs in the back of the family van, and the only safety precaution we were told to take was to hang the fuck on, TO ANYTHING.
The first time I got drunk, I was at Janet Fisher’s birthday party, and I was 14 years old. Red wine seemed like a fabulous idea for about an hour. For seven hours and a hundred barfs later, I realized that red wine was, in fact, the devil.
In high school, we partied at ‘The Flare’ as we called it, which was a large burning oil flare in the middle of a field. After lighting a ridiculously over stoked and unnecessary bonfire, right beside the flare (because we were monumental idiots), we partied like fools completely oblivious to the fact we could all be incinerated at any moment without warning. “Oh, oh, I know. Let’s throw a full bottle of beer in the fire and see what happens, you guys! HAHAHA” Don’t. Do. That. Ever. There will be blood. LOT’S AND LOTS OF BLOOD. PS…it wasn’t me.
My virginity was lost in a parked truck. Not in a romantic setting like the forest or a hangout overlooking the glow of the city lights, or anything like that. No, no. We decided that beside the railroad tracks in the middle of downtown was the perfect spot for me to experience this particular rite of passage. Being teased about ‘if it’s rockin don’t come knockin’ gets old. It really does. Make better choices, kids. And just say no to rum and coke.
For a short time, pants with a zipper, which went from your belly button to the small of your back, were all the rage. Meaning that any wardrobe malfunction exposed your back biz and front biz to those unfortunate enough to be in your presence when it happened. “Dearest designer of flawed pants. Thanks for the gift of that which I can never unsee!” A little advice to the risk takers out there – in the event of a “What in the shit kind of zipper pants are these?” comeback – for the love of all that is holy GROOM YOUR FUCKING SELVES!
The 80’s, though, were more than just bad decisions. They were magical, taught me independence and prepared me for my life ahead. The memories I have of that decade are forever seared into my mind and heart.
When I was 12 years old, I discovered my love of words, and the ability I had to heal myself every time I wrote one down. Now when I read the stories I wrote back then, I see the dreamer inside the girl I once was. I feel thankful that through the turmoil and pain in the years that followed, that little girl held on. And that together, we are once again writing our way to the place we have always wanted to go.
In high school, the two free throws I sank with 30 seconds left on the clock led us to victory over the number one ranked basketball team in the province – solidifying our belief in ourselves and turning us into the team every other team feared. Every minute on the court with my teammates was bliss. And for one night we were on top of the world.
I learned the pros and cons of risk taking every time I picked up the phone without call display.
I fell in love. As I sat alone in a car with her, after having just met, I thought to myself, “Holy shit, I think I am going to love her.” Five minutes after that thought – I did. And a part of me has ever since. She is my most profound memory of the 80’s and barely a day passes without thoughts of her. Anytime I am back home, I find myself searching, hoping to see her emerge from my mind and back into my sight. She never does, but I continue to hope that one day when I least expect it she will reappear.
The Class of 1989, my class, was filled with kindness, inclusion, tolerance, belief, humour and life. I am thankful that my 80’s were accompanied by these people – these incredible fucking people – and the love we had for one another. Though we have all gone our separate ways, I have no doubt that somewhere out there in the space between us, our memories collide. And that when we are alone, remembering and thinking of one another, each of us is overcome with a rush of nostalgia so robust, we wish to reach for one another once again.
As the world around me now, is seemingly imploding, I find myself often thinking about my past and appreciating how lucky I was to grow up in the generation I did. I wouldn’t trade the 80’s for anything. Back then the thing I feared the most was looking directly into the solar eclipse without special glasses on because my teacher told me I would go blind if I did.
Now I am afraid of the future for my niece and nephew, and wonder what kind of world awaits them. What lessons will they learn and what memories will they hold deep in their hearts and minds when they look back on their lives, as I am now? My hope is that they find friends and make connections, and experience laughter, love, and heartbreak in a kind accepting world. And that when they grow old, they too look back and remember the days that shaped them, and are thankful.
Ferris Bueller said it best. And his words still ring true today.
Every day, at least once, I ask myself, “How the hell did I get here so damn fast? Just – how?” Time has flown. And it is picking up speed. So every morning I make a conscious decision to live in each moment and to look the hell around.
One minute you are in a moment and then, as quickly as it came, the moment is gone – and years later you find yourself yearning to have it back. But if you are lucky, you were present when you were in it and can reminisce with breathtaking clarity.
When I think back, I long to feel the innocence of the wind blowing in my face, the terror of hanging on for dear life in the back of that van, the elation of victory and the connections between us all before we went our separate ways.
And I long to be back in that car. So that for just one moment, I can see her, once again.