Before you roll your eyes, take heart: this isn't one of those typical "Your childhood wasn't fun if you weren't born in [insert year here]" posts. I acknowledge that there is some overlap in generational cultural trends, so whether you're a 90's or 2000's kid, this list is for you!
The Birth of YouTube
In 2005, my life changed. My older cousin sat me down in the computer room of my grandparents' house and introduced me to the wild, weird, and wonderful world of YouTube. The beautiful thing about the platform when it first began was the lack of advertising and promotional content: it truly started out as a place for creative people across the globe to share their work easily. Of course there was a dark side to YouTube, as there is in most things, but my nostalgic memories of it remain untarnished. Charlie the Unicorn, Llamas with Hats, Weird Al, the Double Rainbow guy, Crazy Frog, the "Friday" music video, Rejected by Don Hertzfeldt, Julian Smith, Shane Dawson ... I firmly believe that these entertaining - sometimes weird - videos led to the creation of the modern meme culture we enjoy today.
The Scholastic Book Fair
Close your eyes and picture this: a large tiled room filled with towering racks of books; bins stuffed with "Hang in There" cat posters; tables loaded with pens, erasers, pointing sticks, and other useless nonsense.
In other words, heaven.
While there were many things I loved about elementary school, there was nothing on Earth better than showing up to school with your pocket full of your parents' money and a catalog of the books you were dying to read. The Scholastic Book Fair usually came only once a year, and every time was better than the last. I remember being introduced to some of my favorite books and series through the book fair, notably the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series and the coveted "Guinness Book of World Records." No matter how old and jaded you may get, it's impossible to forget the pure, unadulterated joy of purchasing a giant rubber pencil.
Kids today live in a completely different world than the one I knew as a child, bombarded in all directions by technology and distractions. Of course I still had the internet, but it was vastly different and much less user-friendly. Because I had less options, I spent most of my time playing outdoors with the neighborhood kids - and thank God for that. My siblings and I let our imaginations run wild when we played outside, and there were endless things to do. We played soccer games, turned our playground slide into a water slide, rolled down hills in trash bags (one of our more genius ideas, if you ask me), and played flashlight tag at night. It was always a blessed day when the ice cream truck visited the neighborhood, tinny music drifting across the cul-de-sac to our sweaty little ears. Though modern video games offer a higher level of quality and a much larger selection, I would trade all of them in the world to bit hit in the ankle once more by a Razor scooter.
Trends and Toys
I had the best time playing with toys as a kid: they stimulated my imagination and provided me hours of fun. (Though, let's face it: I wasn't too hard to entertain as a kid.) Many toys and collectibles came and went as fads, promoted heavily on the TV channels I watched. For a while, Silly Bandz were the thing that cool kids collected. I remember travelling around to five different stores in one day just to find some that I could show off to my friends. Before that, I religiously collected Webkinz, Littlest Pet Shop figures, and LEGO sets. I can also remember popular toys like Bop It or Tomadachi life, which became the staple of any playroom.
I grew up as a Potterhead, and was lucky enough to see the Harry Potter films in the theater as they came out (Prisoner of Azkaban onward). One of the things I miss the most about the 2000's was the ritual of reading the books and seeing the movies for the first time. I mean, who can forget the shock of watching S*ape kill D*mbledore?!
I don't only miss Harry Potter, though. The 2000's were a great decade to be a kid, with classic films and series such as Shrek, Toy Story, Monster's Inc., and Madagascar coming onto the scene. It was a time of experimentation and originality in film, and I believe this is a huge reason why many of films made in this time period are still some of my favorites.
Shrek 2, PC
I will say it until I can't anymore: I grew up during the best time for video games. Sure, the graphics were laughable, and the variety might not have been the greatest, but the games that I played on PC, PS2, and Wii were arguably ground-breaking and carried a high entertainment value. Games were made based on my favorite films, and made it possible to further explore the world introduced in the movie. The simple game play lent more of a focus to story than ranking high in a leader board, and the introduction of multi-player opened the door to an entirely new world of opportunities. Some of the games that impacted me most were the LEGO Star Wars saga, the Harry Potter games, and Wizard101 online. Also, who can leave out Mario Kart and Animal Crossing?
Music has the power of reviving old memories and feelings. Remember where you were when you first heard "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry? What about "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga, "Umbrella" by Rihanna, or "Yeah" by Usher? The 2000's were full of incredible hit songs, but we didn't have Spotify or any easy, feasible way of listening to high quality music. Instead, I listened to the radio, CD's, or MP3 files loaded onto my tiny MP3 player like the one above. The really lucky kids eventually got iPods, but for a while I had to take what I could get. My interest in good music early on still influences me today, and while I don't hesitate to listen to Spotify playlists, I'm also building a vinyl collection to celebrate the many forms that music can take.
The span of my childhood was an amazing time for television: it really started to find its stride with programming for children on major channels such as Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Cartoon Network. On Nickelodeon, I fell in love with the cheeky, relatable humor of "Spongebob Squarepants" and live action classics such as "Drake and Josh" and "iCarly." Disney Channel hosted a slew of classics as well, like "Hannah Montana," "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," "Phineas and Ferb," and "The Wizards of Waverly Place." Disney also premiered their Disney Channel Original Movies (DCOMs) like "High School Musical" and "Camp Rock," which took the world by storm.
Cartoon Network had a more eclectic variety of shows, but often I feel the most nostalgic when I think back on them. When I was younger, I adored shows such as "Dexter's Laboratory," "The Powerpuff Girls, "Courage the Cowardly Dog," and "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends." I've also really enjoyed some of the newer shows they offer, like "Regular Show," "The Amazing World of Gumball," and "Clarence."
Sometimes nostalgia can cloud our perception of the present, so I always try to steer clear of looking too far backwards. However, it's never a bad thing to appreciate where you came from. Some of the passions that started in us as kids can prove to be guiding factors in the way we live our lives.
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