When you are a 40-something special education teacher with depression and anxiety, you don’t get too many quiet moments to simply reflect and process. Occasionally, a seemingly obscure moment – whether it’s listening to a new or old song, watching a scene from an impactful movie, revisiting an episode of a classic sitcom, or a having a brief encounter with a stranger – this moment will come out of no where and remind you of what you once had, what you have now, and what you can still lose. This is especially true in this digital age where we allow our whole lives to be accessible. I had one of these moments this morning, and it hit me with its best shot.
I woke up a half an hour before my alarm to go to the bathroom, and I cannot think of many things that are more infuriating, besides getting whipped with a Twizzler. So I figured it was not worth going back to sleep only to be ripped from my ten minutes of additional slumber. As I often do, I got back into bed and screwed around on my phone, trying desperately not to fall into a teasing sleep. I’ll often watch true crime videos on YouTube (why I do this in the dark when my anxiety-laced brain is incapable of any rational thought, I do not know), but sometimes I’ll listen to music and/or watch music videos. Several days before I received a notification about a brand new New Kids on the Block song and video, so I decided to check it out.
Let me just pause by saying, without an ounce of shame, that I still love those handsome sons of bitches from Beantown. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I was all about that scene – posters, magazines, books, buttons, a hat with the top cut off, I had a lot of stuff – my collection was nothing compared to all the girls who owned the dolls, bedsheets, shower curtains, trading cards, and marbles. Mom never let me go that crazy because as the wise woman she was, she knew the phase would pass. And it did. It just sort of happened. They disappeared. I disappeared into the 90’s world of flannel shirts, Doc Martens, dyed fire engine red hair, and grunge.
It took about fourteen years for me to discover that they were back together, touring regularly, making new music, and establishing a following of young and old, male as well as female. Years ago, I worked with someone who told me about seeing the New Kids in concert, and I assumed it was a random reunion show and didn’t think much of it. Well, I certainly made an ass out of, just me. It’s not like they have an enormous following now that most of the boys are in their 50’s. But what they do have is almost like a secret society – chalk full of thirty and forty-something year old women – mothers, daughters, grandmothers, teachers, doctors, lawyers – all looking to preserve and embrace the shadows of a simpler time. These guys have also aged beautifully and are damn fun to watch too. The raging hormone factor certainly hasn’t gone away. But now the boys don’t have to worry about being overpowered by clouds of Aqua Net and the clutches of Lee Press On Nails.
Going back to my morning, I popped in my ear buds, listened to the new song a couple of times, and was overcome with a bizarre fusion of joy, laughter, and pain – the joy and laughter for the crazy nostalgia the song triggered, and the anguish and tears for a time long passed. A time before unrealistic expectations, breakdowns, divorce, losing a parent, losing jobs, and losing sight of what really matters – fun, pure joy, family, friends, and nurturing your inner child. A time when life actually made sense for the most part. I found myself staring at the wall next to my bed, trying to figure out why a New Kids On the Block song was making me ball at 5 o’clock in the morning on a Thursday. I planned to write this in an attempt to figure out why, and I don’t have an answer. At least not a solid one.
Do I have to seriously reevaluate my “now” to not be so profoundly affected by my “then”? Does this mean I would give up anything I have now in order to get one more day – one more day of Teen Beat magazines, bike rides in the mud, and Garbage Pail Kids?
Would I give it all up for one more night at the roller skating rink or the mall? One more day shopping for high top sneakers, Baby Sitters Club books, and Trapper Keepers? Is there really nothing I wouldn’t let go of now for one more visit to Orange Julius with my Mom, or one more frolic at the town carnival with my grandmother? She won me a lot of New Kids posters playing those games back in the day.
Maybe I would give up all of my “now” or maybe I wouldn’t. But one thing is for sure, I am honored and blessed to have lived in that time, and I am proud and thankful to be a 42 year old Blockhead. In general, I am eternally grateful for the throwbacks and the nostalgia that’s keeping me lifted when it seems like the Earth is going up in flames. May the blend of ecstatic and hellacious tears continue to put out many fires. So keep bringing it on boys.