Mansion, apartment, shack or house – the young millennial’s fate sealed in pencil and crinkled paper, the potential paths of their lives scrawled onto the sheet by their snickering friends.
Would you get to marry the cutest boy in class, or would you be forced to wed the most annoying one? Would your life be spent in the arms of luxury with your celebrity husband, or would you be stuck in a shack with four kids and no job?
For many young girls in the 1990s, the game of M.A.S.H. was as close as you could get to looking into fate’s eye itself — and often taken just as seriously. Played in the lunchroom or on the playground, this game was a staple of childhood for many in the late ‘90s and early 2000s.
For sophomore Amy Spencer, the times spent playing this game hold a special place in her heart.
“We would always play M.A.S.H.,” Spencer said. “And you would put, like, that one boy from your class that was really cute and the one boy that you could never date, and then you would put a celebrity and it was like, ‘Who am I gonna get?’ And you would basically base your entire life off of M.A.S.H.”
Childhood games from the 1990s and early 2000s such as M.A.S.H are just some of the things millennials remember about the golden years of their childhoods. And it can be these memories that serve as an escape to the increasing list of responsibilities and troubles that plague the life of an adult.
For Spencer, some of the best and most memorable times of her childhood come from when she was in preschool and younger.
As a kid, Spencer was infatuated with the popular children’s show character Barney.
“Barney was my jam,” Spencer remembers. “I loved Barney so much, like I would watch Barney, I would dress up like Barney. I have pictures of me in a full Barney costume!”
“When I met Barney, I sobbed. I was like freaking out. It was for my birthday, like probably three or four-ish, and I was terrified. Like, ‘Barney is so scary!’ I was terrified!”
For junior Jazlyn Rust, some of her fondest memories come from when she and her father would sing along to songs on her karaoke machine.
“Me and that karaoke machine were everywhere,” Rust remembered. “Everywhere I could give a speech or sing a song or whatever, I was there! It was really when I discovered that I liked to talk. My dad always loved to hear me sing, especially when ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline came on. That was my dad’s favorite song. So I would bring it down to the middle of the living room and sing for him.”
“When I was growing up, my parents worked a lot, so we would watch … ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.’ I would watch it a lot and I found myself wanting to put myself in their family, sort of. I could go to something for comic relief.”
But for Rust, the show was not just good for a laugh, but actually provided her with key wisdom and advice.
“I remember one scene in the last episode where [Will] is like, ‘I don’t know, man – what if I never get my life together?’ And I remember thinking and being worried, what if I don’t get my life together? He was so worried and I kind of remember feeling that feeling. And even now, when that episode comes on – oh, my heart! I just keep thinking – would I make Will Smith proud?”
Junior Chelsea Tyler also experienced a deep connection to some of her favorite childhood television shows, especially “Teen Titans.”
“Every time there was a new episode, my sister and I would be in the living room and we would, like, turn up the volume all the way,” said Tyler. “And then our parents always mocked it and they would call the show ‘Teen Stupids’ instead of ‘Teen Titans’ and they would be, like, making fun of it and like mocking the theme song and we would be like ‘Shhh! We’re trying to watch the show!’”
But Tyler’s admiration for the show did not stop at merely watching it. When she was younger, she and her sister, Christie, would role-play as their favorite “Teen Titans” characters for hours on end.
“Back in the day, my sister and I were obsessed with ‘Teen Titans!’ We had the action figures, we pretended that we were them and would, like, role play and act out the scenes,” Tyler remembers. “I was Raven, Terra, and Beast Boy. Christie was always Robin and always Starfire. Since she was older, she got to choose who she wanted to be, so naturally she chose the best characters.”
Tyler still remembers one episode in particular that had a lasting impact on her — but not for a good reason. That was the first time the young Chelsea Tyler was devastated by the death of a beloved character.
“There was this one episode and [Terra], like, sacrifices herself and she becomes one with her powers and she turns to stone and she dies,” says Tyler. “And I was like a 10-year-old kid who loved this character and just saw my favorite character die! That was the first time any character I liked in any show died.
The emotional reaction was immediate.
“I start, like sobbing at the end of it. I could not believe they killed off my favorite character!”
But luckily Lynn Tyler, Chelsea’s mother, stepped in to save the day.
“My mom sees me crying and she is like, like, ‘Do you want to get a Blizzard at Dairy Queen to make you feel better?’ And I am sitting in the back seat, I can’t even order because I am crying that much over the death of Terra!”
“So we came up with this scenario where Robin gives her this potion that, like, reverses everything and unfreezes her as a rock, so that was how whenever we pretended to be them, we made sense of her death and resurrection.”
Lynn Tyler still remembers this day well.
“I remember they couldn’t believe that. They were waiting like [Terra] was supposed to come back,” Lynn remembers.
For Tyler and her mother, “Teen Titans” was not the only way television helped them bond and make lasting memories.
“My mom and I bonded a lot over like Disney channel movies and shows,” Tyler remembers. “We would always watch new episodes of Raven together, we would always watch new, like, D-Coms – always. Even if we weren’t together and watched it, she would watch it at a different time and I watched it so we could talk about it, so Disney is like a huge part of my mom’s life, as well — not just mine!”
“We still joke about the episodes and certain things that happened in the episodes, just laugh about them! We would just watch them together.”
This is a tradition that the Chelsea and her mom still enjoy to this day.
“We got kind of nostalgic, because she watched a couple of them on Disney Channel and she recorded them, so actually when she was home from college a couple weeks ago, we watched them and kind of relived her youth, which was kind of fun,” Lynn said. “We watched all the ‘High School Musicals,’ and oh my gosh, that was fun!”
With all these good quality memories from childhood, it is no wonder why websites such as “90s Babies Only” on Facebook and others like it devote themselves entirely to remembering the good old days of the 1990s and 2000s, collectively and in public. Nostalgia is no longer a solo act thanks to the help of social media. And sites such as the one mentioned are wildly popular among self-proclaimed “‘90s kids.”
“Now we have social media where we can make these Facebook groups of ‘90s kids only, and we can go back and look at pictures online of stuff that we used to do like a decade ago,” Tyler said. “It connects people. It’s an easy conversation to have with basically anybody from that time. And then you just feel connected and you feel understood, and isn’t that what people want in life, is to feel understood?”
Caroline Beaton, journalist and writer for Psychology Today, believes that this rapid growth of technology has led many to feel some small sense of longing for the days before technology and responsibilities.
“For as least as long as we remember what it was like, I think we’ll feel a subtle heartache for that kind of life,” Beaton says.
But for Chelsea Tyler, regardless of how much she loves looking back on her childhood, the future is where she chooses to cast her gaze.
“I wouldn’t say they were the glory days, but they were good times,” Tyler said. “Because if you say they were the glory days, you’re saying that it only gets worse from here on out, and I don’t think that’s a good outlook on life. I don’t want my life to be a downward spiral.”