History Can Keep the Fucking Eighties

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Why I Don’t Get All The Sentimental Feels For A Decade Of Strife And Struggle: A Personal Essay.

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I graduated high school in 1983, and due to my parents moving us around all the time, I didn’t even get to graduate with the kids I’d known for a huge chunk of my life by that point. After that, 1984 to 1994 were the worst years of my life. Many twenty-somethings will be able to relate to this because they, perhaps, are also living the most chaotic and often absurdly depressing years of their lives at this very moment, so I’ll elaborate.

  1. I drove a piece of shit, Mexican made, hunk of rusty bolts 1978 Ford Fiesta. So sexy. We were poor. There was no college fund or fancy graduation car. I even had to take out a loan for the fucking thing. At that point, I was working three part-time jobs.
  2. At 19, due to a psychotic family dynamic, I had to move out. I lived in an apartment with two other girls: an apartment above a shop, in a shit part of town, on a major highway, next to a roach-infested pub. The main attractions within walking distance were the Laundromat, the biker bar, and the video rental store.
  3. I often worked two sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. I’ve worked in retail; I’ve worked as a school picture touch-up artist; I’ve worked as a dishwasher; and I’ve had some of the most loathsome misogynistic bosses during my early short-tenure secretarial jobs.
  4. My Dad got cancer and eventually died after months of gruesome hospice care.
  5. Psychos (see number 2)
  6. My romantic life consisted of a parade of losers, idiots, and narcissistic prima donnas. There were a few decent guys along the way, but commitment was a dirty word.
  7. I was odd, so even with my friends, I always felt like a third wheel, never really fitting in even though they loved me anyway.
  8. I was an LGBT friend and supporter. A fag-hag as it was coined at the time. The AIDS crisis was horrifying, and I had two people near and dear who suffered.
  9. Fucking Ronald Reagan.
  10. Rock Ballads.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were good times, but we partied hard, so most of those good times (all really) were neatly wrapped around a bottle or a joint. It was a fugue state of debauchery, of dollar pints of Chinese fried rice, of greasy McDonald’s, and of rage disguised as drunken laughter. Life was about getting through the day so you could party and stay numb. Bohemian Lifestyle my ass. It was the only lifestyle we could afford, and we called it that in an effort to fool ourselves into thinking it was better than it was. It wasn’t. If it weren’t for the booze and my friends, some of whom are still friends today, I wouldn’t have made it. Contemplative thoughts were a regular occurrence.

Life for me didn’t start to turn around until the early ‘90s, when I got my first professional job with vacation time and real health benefits. I was 24, living in another shitty apartment, enjoying the last shitty relationship before I would embark upon my first shitty marriage. But … BUT, it was the first time I felt hope that the life I wanted to live was possible. I loved my job. For the first time in my life, I was really really good at something. I often say that “I suck at numbers, unless there’s a dollar sign in front them.” This turned out to be true. I made a career of it, well, enough of a career that I was able to support myself, by myself, so in 1994, bye bye drunk-assed pot-head loser first husband.

Then I started dating my current husband. Then we bought our house and got married.

The last twenty years have been the best years of my life because it’s the life I chose, front to back: the life I was afforded the opportunity to choose because I’d worked my ass off and learned how to make good common sense choices. In the last twenty years, I accomplished so much. I learned all kinds of construction and repair shit: electrical, plumbing, you name it. Houses always need fixing. I also learned how to garden, and our property is a registered wildlife sanctuary through NWF. I learned how to enjoy a good marriage. I got back to writing and wrote five books, hundreds of short stories, and edited a small magazine for six years. I’ve given a good life to seven ferrets and two cats, some of them special needs and rescues.

Sure, it’s not always idyllic, but what life is? I don’t have a gold toilet or a Nobel Prize, but you know what they say about expectations … and sarcasm. I’ve also been forced to change jobs six times in that twenty years. The idea of losing the house, everything we’d worked for, was always looming over us. I lived in shitty apartments, trailers, and townhouses almost all of my life. My tiny little house is metaphorically everything to me. It is the stability I never had as a child, and I know it’s stupid to attach yourself to things like that (I believe Tyler Durden said something about the things you own) but thankfully, I’ve always had my anger. I do own that. It may sound sanctimonious, but I was taught not to wallow in the past or your own self-pity. I was gifted with rational rage because my Dad taught me discipline. I’ve always been able to live in the present, focus on the future, and make my way, kicking and screaming, from one to the other. I parked all of my anger from that era in my stories, and fortunately, stories end. Fuck the past. It’s over. Learn your lessons and move on. That’s what my Dad always said.

For me, personally, I am happy to do that because ’84 to ’94 was a special kind of suck for me, worse than a bag of worm-riddled shit. There was some good music, and I made good friends, but beyond that, history can keep that decade to itself. I have no desire to visit, let alone dwell there.

Many twenty-somethings might be saying, “OMG, I’m living that same life right now, I don’t know how much more I can take,” to which I reply, “You can take more than you think. Get angry and channel it into something constructive: focus on others, volunteer at a charity of some sort so that you’re not hyper-focused on yourself. Don’t worry, it ends and gets better eventually. Hang in there. Press on. And find people you can talk to.”

As a bonus, by the time you are fifty-something, you will have way fewer fucks to give, and that in itself is very liberating.

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