I grew up in the 2000s, but I'm a '90s kid at heart

'I felt like an impostor in both generations: a liar in one and a phony in the other'

The early years of my childhood feel like an endless time loop in my memory. 

Days spent in my grandmother’s guest house with no one but me and my cousins, rain dripping down the dirtied glass windows like tears running mascara down an old woman’s face. I can’t remember much, but most of my memories read like the one above — with the addition of a few salient pieces of 90’s media.

My cousins had similar interests to me. We took them mostly from our older brothers. Video games were the primary ones: "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time," "Pokémon," "Galaga" and "GoldenEye 007" were common contenders. 


"I can’t remember much, but most of my memories read like the one above — with the addition of a few salient pieces of '90s media. " Illustration published on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.

The time we’d spend trying to beat the next level or binge-watching another episode of "Catdog" would creep ceaselessly into hours, days, sometimes weeks. Entering school, however, showed me that few kids in my generation understood. Even my favorite TV shows — mainly "Rugrats," "Pokémon" and old episodes of "Spongebob SquarePants" — didn’t seem to garner attention from my elementary cohorts.

The kids my age mostly found themselves engrossed with pieces of media like "Fairly OddParents," "Phineas and Ferb" or the "Suite Life of Zack and Cody." To a substantial extent, I felt deeply alienated by the differences between my peers and myself in the media that we consumed. 

Conversations with school friends were filled with references to "Camp Rock," "High School Musical" and the Jonas Brothers, while evenings with my cousins consisted of rounds of "Super Smash Bros." My selection of media ended in the year 2000, and my reality felt correspondingly different. 

The result was a duality of experience — my home life was tinged with that cartoonish, 1990s glow. 

School to me, on the other hand, was a world of unknown references spoken in a seemingly foreign tongue. Compared to the 2000s the 1990s had an entrancing appeal. They were filled with the golden era of Disney movies, glorious episodes of nostalgic TV shows and more TV-born musical artists than you could imagine.

The idea that I was a '90s kid gave me comfort from the pains of being different from my peers, but it was a lie. In many ways, I felt like an impostor in both generations: a liar in one and a phony in the other. I was sandwiched in between the cultural norms of two vastly different decades, each with its own zeitgeist created by its inhabitants. 

Finding any semblance of understanding between my illuded 1990s and my friends from the 2000s was comically exacting. The feelings of alienation were intense and overwhelming, but one welcoming experience began a change of tide. 


"The feelings of alienation were intense and overwhelming, but one welcoming experience began a change of tide." Illustration published on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019.

If you’ve seen "High School Musical," you surely remember the last day of school scene. The students are sitting in their classes, staring at the clock as it counts down to their ever nearer few months of freedom, and they chant, “Summer. Summer. Summer,” until finally the school bell chimes and the school breaks out into song. 

On the last day of school my freshman year, I still hadn’t seen this part of the movie or heard of it. But when my English teacher began the video, my class burst into the same chant: “Summer. Summer. Summer. Summer.” I looked around bewildered at the class’s intense focus on this song I didn’t know; I saw this beautiful, ineffably vibrant youthfulness to their song, and I was enchanted.

I joined in with them, and after the final seconds of the school year ticked away from the clock, we broke out into ecstatic screams of laughter and jubilance. 

Years later, and even upon meeting other self-proclaimed 1990s kids at heart, nothing will ever beat the pure feeling of happiness and joy I felt in that last period of a high school English class. Though the differences in how we were raised culturally seem so significant in causing division, they can just as easily and powerfully bring connection, enough to spend a few vital moments living fully and clearly. 

Even if those moments are silly class-wide chants of a cheesy song, the thought alone excites me tremendously and gives me just enough comfort to stay put in my little '90s niche. 


Reach the reporter at cbeal4@asu.edu and follow @beal_camden on Twitter. 

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