The promotional item for ABC's My Generation was a time capsule of sorts. A big white box featuring the fictional Texas high school's logo on the top and a collage of black and white photos of the gang of friends that took part in a 2000 documentary about their hopes, their dreams, their greatest aspirations and expectations for their lives. It arrived at my doorstep, and I literally clapped my gratitude for the FedEx man. Genius marketing for a show that sets out to play up the nostalgia factor and tug at heartstrings? My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture certainly thinks so!
(If you don't already know what My Generation is about, then you obviously haven't been reading this blog!)
See back when I was a senior in high school, I put together a time capsule of my own. I called it more my memory box (and I discuss it in detail in my pop culture memoir). It was full of fun things that meant something to me from my childhood, and when FedEx knocked on my door to drop off someone else's memories-- albeit, fictional characters' ones-- it sent a surge through me that was both exciting and sad all at the same time.
Where does the time go? When exactly did mix CDs and pagers go out of style?
Last season, I connected pretty deeply with then-new show Life Unexpected because it spoke to that part of me that always daydreamed about being adopted and setting out in the world to find a new family. This year the show I have formed the emotional bond with is My Generation because it is coming at a time in my life when I have stepped back to reevaluate where I am versus where I always said would be by this point.
My Generation begs the question of what makes true happiness by making its audience that not everything we thought we wanted at age seventeen was really going to make us so. And in turn, it also asks us to redefine success. So much of the show is about building its characters up and letting the audience in on their greatest hopes and dreams but showcasing them in a way that proves they never saw them as something too distant. Call it ignorance or idealism of youth, but they had a cocky confidence that told them they really were about to get everything they ever wanted. They truly believed they deserved everything they ever wanted. And none of them thought life might get in the way.
Until it did.
What we thought was so damn important at seventeen-- why we included cheerleading pom poms and copies of popular novels and love notes written on class assignments in a cardboard box to save for our children-- for one reason or another isn't always what might be in store for us. My Generation plays with the idea that the greatest challenge in life is not simply knowing yourself but deciding whether or not to fight the odds to go for it, even when elements are stacked against you. Because it is in that willing or unwillingness to settle that defines who you truly are.
Everything else we leave behind are just things.