I can remember as far back as being three years old and driving back and forth to San Diego every other weekend, because my dad lived down there. I also remember begging my dad to go to beach on his weekend, while he still lived in SD and when he moved back to Los Angeles.
My parents divorced before I could remember them even being together, let alone comfortable in the same room, so I guess I was meant to be here. This was also before my two younger half-siblings were born and safe to say, it was my world. My dad and I would always follow up the beach with Rite Aid ice cream or we’d hit the corner store for that apple shaped, glass bottle of Martinelli’s apple juice—you just had to be there. Getting juice or ice cream under the age of 7 was a big deal and I loved the water, the sand, and touching the sea anemones stuck to the rocks. This was the 90s and I was the only child, up until a month shy of my 5th birthday and I got me a little sister, which was better than gold to me at that point. I gained two half-sisters—
in total—a year later. We all had a ton of fun, uninterrupted by technology and there were just conversations about life at every turn, especially those car rides back and forth from San Diego with my dad.
Before my sisters were born, my dad took me to the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood to see Toy Story and we literally sat next to Robert Townsend and his daughter Sky. I remember my Dad conversing with this really nice guy and becoming instant friends with this little girl a little younger than me, while we watched this super cool movie in this huge theater. It wasn’t until I got older that my dad mentioned who they were. That is the joy of human interaction in the 90s when celebrities could essentially operate under the radar a bit and no one was shoving a camera in your face saying, “Pictures or it didn’t happen”. Now I do wish we had a photo of that, because how cool would that be to have that memory preserved?
I also remember getting dropped off at my grandmother’s house around the time Toy Story came out and having, Woody, Jessie and Buzz action figures and trying to sneak and possibly catch them coming alive like the movie. I know some parents limit screen time for their kids, but there’s no way to tell how much this type of imagination has dwindled.
My mom also had one of those huge brick-sized cellphones that she kept in the glove compartment of her all-white Geo-Tracker. She never took it in the house. I also remember the cellphone having a thin leather case and a transparent plastic shield for the keypad. I never understood why she kept it in the car but imagine leaving your phone in the glove compartment now, let alone anywhere out of arms reach.
Another few things that stand out about my limited technological childhood was my obsession with Egypt, wanting to “make” music (I learned how to play the piano as a kid), and having to wait for the house phone because of dial-up internet. There were also these things called libraries that gave out library cards that allowed access any book you could imagine. I remember having to be taken to the library to get books for book reports, science projects and I remember just wanting to go because it was a fun outing and I could get more books about Egypt (Birdman hand-rub).
The quick backstory about learning to play piano by ear, was that my mom and I were visiting family and a friend of theirs was over messing around on their piano playing Carl Thomas’ new single, “I Wish”. I was absolutely mesmerized that there wasn’t any sheet music. I mean it is a very simple melody, but I believe I had just turned 9 and I begged my mom for a keyboard and eventually lessons. When I got that keyboard, I played Carl’s song on the first try and eventually listened to the presets, which included Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 and could play that by ear, as well.
My mom and dad used to take me everywhere and I did not have an iPad or a device to necessarily distract me; I had to use my imagination with the simple toys I got to take with me or interact with the adults and the people around us. I honestly was a shy kid, but I observed and wanted to be a part of what was going on in real time. Parents now are drained from their devices and turn to them for help to essentially placate their kids (successfully) while they replenish themselves to engage properly. I’m not one to judge, but it’s a never-ending cycle.
While the 90s was a time with limited technology, (heck we still had house phones with cords, answering machines with tapes and dial-up), we had the mental capacity to be a little more inventive and in-tune with ourselves. We seemed to be more forgiving with ourselves, as well. While people still like to leave the house now, when they do, they’re filming and posting for clout, not to necessarily soak or preserve the moment. While I can still get creative myself, it takes real effort because technology is our life line to the outside world these days and it’s exhausting. After I’ve done my 9-5 on my laptop, scrolled a bit to unwind and laugh, eat, engage with my kid and my fiancé, there are only a few hours until I have to get up and do it all over again.
Having a constant lifeline to an infinite number of distractions at your disposal further dilutes genuine creativity and perpetuates this concrete veil over our true need for human interaction, which in return has most of the world strung out on the effervescent glare of constant content. Dopamine apparently gets released every time there’s a like or an engagement to our content, let alone when we are dazzled by something or someone we love. Cortisol is the stress hormone and you can guess what contributes to that being released. I guarantee both are at all-time high for everyone. Our devices have given us something to hold onto in fear of being bored or surrendering to all of the things we want but haven’t acted on. It has also given people the idea that technology needs to validate how we are all living.
Especially since we are still in a pandemic and more than half of the world is working from a laptop at home, possibly with children and barely get to leave the house (like me), a walk in the sun is the best thing cooking. That walk has the ability to re-energize and helps me remember that I shouldn’t be cooped up in front of any variation of a screen soaking in what other people are doing or planning because it ultimately does nothing for me. Don’t lose yourself in the name of amateur marketing strategies and scheduled Instagram posts for an idea you haven’t launched yet or never will, because you are trying to keep up with a mirrored version of the people in your feed not living for themselves.
I do not wish it were 1995, nor do I wish we could go back to using less technology. There just needs to be a balance, however that’s a destination we most-likely won’t reach. The reality is that everyone is addicted to the convenience and hiding behind a profile of partial anonymity, which in return makes all of us feel better about being really uncomfortable about everything we have yet to accomplish, on the account of it looking glamorous on our screens.