2019/10/14

A Gen Y Tale

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Scott came into the world in 1982. His Boomer parents both worked full-time, so throughout his formative years, his days were spent in the custody of hired sitters, then daycare centers, preschool, and finally public elementary school.

As compensation for leaving him in such an alienating, stultifying environment, Scott's parents made sure to bribe him with plenty of snack foods and toys--and because they were made by other Boomers nursing repressed guilt over abandoning their children, these were the best toys to ever exist.

Another compensation--despite the school's best efforts to curtail Scott's play and socializing time by confining him for six hours a day and assigning excessive busywork to do at home--was the small group of friends he made. In their few unmanaged hours each week, Scott and his friends would watch after-school cartoons as excellent as their toys or play Nintendo or tag football.

Yes, kids both wanted, and were allowed, to play outside back then. Scott's teachers, TV, and parents all told him he could do anything he wanted as long as he stayed off drugs.

After the divorce, Scott still got to live in the nice house where his family had lived since he was six because his mom got it and full custody of him and his big sister. The once cozy place on the shady residential street seemed bigger and emptier, even though Scott's dad had seemed to spend most of his time at work. But the worst feeling came from Scott's dawning realization that much of what he'd been led to regard as permanent was ephemeral and unreliable.

By the time Scott started high school, most of his childhood friends had drifted away. A couple had moved out of town after their parents' divorces. The rest transferred to other schools. Some had been enrolled in the private high school in the suburbs with the lousy basketball team--"For the high college acceptance rates," their parents said. Scott's mother kept him in public school but also kept taking the family to the corner Lutheran church. Scott soon stopped attending services. For reasons he couldn't articulate, going to a big building with his mom and sister for an hour each Sunday didn't make sense

Having his life upturned once again made Scott's first high school term difficult. But over winter break he made a new friend thanks to the N64 his mom had bought him for Christmas. By the end the school year, he'd joined a small clique of boys interested in video games, comic books, and RPGs. He lived for weekends when his mom and her boyfriend went out of town and his sister went on dates with her boyfriend, giving Scott and his Werewolf: The Apocalypse group the run of the house.

It wasn't all Goldeneye, X-Men, and d10s. Not only did Scott's teachers give him even more busywork in increasingly irrelevant subjects, grunting jocks stuffed him into lockers more than once. Other complications barged into his life. Hardly a week passed without a fistfight in the halls, and Scott witnessed at least two minor riots.

Scott's hobbies shifted into the background when he got his license and his dad made a rare non-holiday appearance to gift him his first car. The '86 Chevy Corsica didn't look like much, but Scott loved it more than all his toys because it let him take girls on dates.

Despite his nerd-adjacent rep, Scott still played football in the vacant lot next door, blacktop basketball on the church playground, and Frisbee golf in the local park. He also started lifting weights in the school gym. At 17 he was in the best shape of his life and managed to get a couple dates a month. Nothing serious developed. Half the time, Scott's dates consisted of taking a girl to a friend's place and hanging out with a mix of other couples and stragglers. Though game nights also started devolving into late night gab sessions with his friends, he usually left the table feeling more satisfied than when he dropped his latest girlfriend at home.

Senior year caught Scott with no definite plans for the future. The TV, his parents, and his guidance counselors had all said to trust each other, and they'd all agreed that Scott could do whatever he wanted. When he admitted to not especially wanting anything, they told him to get a college degree--any degree. He'd have his pick of jobs after that and could follow his heart to his perfect career.

Scott's parents had started a college fund for his sister but had neglected to make similar provision for him, opting instead to splurge on yearly sports cars and quarterly trips to Cabo San Lucas. The TV, his mom, and his guidance counselor all told Scott to get a student loan. When he asked about the risk, the government-employed counselor showed him a government chart showing that a generic bachelor's degree would double his income. He'd pay off the loan in no time.

Though only 17, Scott took out a five-figure loan which his dad cosigned. At his mom's urging he went to a private university instead of the cheaper state school. He got a job at McDonald's where not even a decade of working full-time would have covered his tuition, room, and board. The freedom of living on his own made Scott euphoric. For the first time in his life, he felt like he was in control of his destiny. It was the last time he would know that feeling.

Scott enjoyed himself in college while avoiding the slacker party guy stereotype. He balanced social drinking, girls, and the occasional joint with his studies. His junior year he settled on a major in computer science. He met a girl in one of his elective classes who sported an Uchiha Clan symbol on her laptop. They clicked, and Scott found himself in his first serious relationship.

After graduation, Scott and his girlfriend focused on their careers before starting a family, as their parents unanimously advised. Scott's girlfriend won a female-only internship which soon led to a corporate job paying fifty grand a year. He himself struggled to find similarly lucrative work and had to take an entry-level help desk job supplemented by moonlighting at Papa John's.

Two years later, Scott had managed to increase his income with a series of contract jobs. Though he applied for internal positions whenever an opening came up, the company always passed him over. At those times, scenes from Office Space would pop into his head for no apparent reason.

Scott finally went internal, and he and his girlfriend were married, at 27. She got the house and the dogs in the divorce. At 37, with a thousand-dollar alimony payment on top of his thousand-dollar student loan payment, Scott once again took a part-time job. Instead of fast food, he got a gig doing after-hours IT work at a small company downtown.

One late night on the crosstown drive back to his apartment, a flight of fancy directed Scott to take a detour past the university campus. Nostalgia for better times came in waves as he passed dorms and bars where he'd spent many a carefree evening. But the sights of brutalist additions to stately halls and century-old buildings razed to make way for new construction jarred him back to the present.

Scott turned off the main drag and cut down a narrow street lined with single-family homes long since rezoned as student housing. Harsh LED street lights gave way to mellow glass globes atop wrought iron stands. He slowed down as he neared a rambling bungalow once shared by some of his college buddies. Not a single car on either side of the street postdated the late 90s. Scott cracked a smile. The trope of the poor college student would never change.

His smile contracted into an O when he spotted the chrome orange minivan in the bungalow's driveway--the same place his friend Bruce had always parked his identical vehicle, which the old gang had called the Pumpkinmobile. Scott had to blink when he drove by and saw the van's rear door papered with the same Star Wars, Warhammer, and metal band stickers that Bruce had slapped on the Pumpkinmobile.

All doubts vanished. It was the Pumpkinmobile.

Scott first entertained but quickly dismissed the notion that Bruce had returned to the old place for a visit. He'd sold his trademark orange van to an out-of-state buyer after burning out of school. Clearly the vehicle had changed hands over they years, only to wind up with someone who also lived in its former owner's old house.

Curiosity shouted down Scott's inhibitions. He made a U-turn in the next intersection and came back for another pass. Emboldened by his first break from the norm, he parked in his former customary spot out front and approached the Pumpkinmobile on foot.

It looks exactly the same as the last time I saw it!

No, not exactly the same. The Revenge of the Sith teaser sticker was missing. All the others were in order, though--perfect order, as if they hadn't seen a day of sun or rain in fifteen years.

The owner must keep it in the garage most of the time. 

But why would anyone be so protective of a garish, twenty-year-old beater?

Multiple young, masculine voices rose in a cheer, interrupting Scott's contemplation. Residual laughter still emanated from the house. Scott recognized that laughter. He'd heard it semi-regularly throughout his college years. Mounting questions drove him up the front steps to the door. The weathered porch boards creaked a familiar greeting. Light peeked through the patterned curtains hung over the windows.

Scott raised his hand to knock but hesitated. What if I just stumbled upon some kind of reunion--one they didn't invite me to? Scott's life had acquainted him well with the pain of rejection, but this instance cut uncommonly deep.

The door swung open in squeaky hinges. As Scott had feared, his former friend Mike stood in the doorway. Not only are they having a reunion, it's an aughts theme party judging by Mike's "Bush lied, troops died," t-shirt.

Mike frowned. "I thought you were the pizza guy."

"Sorry to gatecrash." Scott raised his hands apologetically.

Mike's frown inverted. "Relax, you've always got a seat at our table. Weren't you out with Carrie tonight."

"Who?" The name rang a bell, bug Scott struggled to place it.

"You're late," said Mike, "but it's for the best. You missed getting caught in Alex's board wipe." He threw the door wide as he turned and sauntered back toward the dining room. There, the usual Saturday night group from Scott's junior year sat around the battered dinner table, shuffling their Magic cards for another game.

Scott stepped over the threshold like a sleepwalker come suddenly awake in an unexpected place. Unexpected, but not strange. The scents struck him first and deepest. A citrus plug-in failed to mask the funk of stale beer, Mexican takeout, and a week of dishes left in the sink.The aroma instantly recalled a dozen nights just like this. The relief of returning from a long, arduous trip released tension Scott hadn't known he'd carried.

The old habits rushed back in full force. Scott greeted his old friends at the table, who returned his pleasantries with the nonchalance of long familiarity. They responded to his lack of a deck with more enthusiastic ribbing. Todd bailed him out, as he'd always done, by lending him a spare deck.

Scott had gotten word of Todd's death from a heroin overdose in 2014. He almost cracked a joke about it being greatly exaggerated but decided it would've been in poor taste.

Against Scott's wishes, his awareness that something wasn't quite right steadily grew as the night wore on. His friends weren't just sporting period clothes, they were the exact same clothes they'd owned back in college. Early-mid aughts labels adorned every can of soda, beer bottle, and bag of chips. Every card on the table predated 2005.

His friends' uniformly youthful appearance was the last oddity Scott noticed. Having last seen them over a decade ago, their unlined faces and full heads of hair matched his mental picture. Only when he took a bathroom break and saw in the full-length door mirror that he'd shed his graying stubble, along with about twenty pounds, did he admit the suspicion planted by the Pumpkinmobile.

I went back in time?

No, that wasn't it--not quite. Scott felt in his bones that there was no college-aged version of him out there at that moment with Carrie, the psycho fling he'd largely succeeded in forgetting. If he thought that, he would bolt out of the house, race to Bleachers Bar, and unleash a torrent of dire warnings on his younger self.

Instead, he returned to the table, played until the game broke up, and drove home.

Scott slept like the dead that night.

The next day he texted Bruce for the first time in years. They made small talk in shorthand. Scott finally worked up the courage to ask Bruce what he'd been up to the night before. His old friend replied with a shrug emoji.

In the following weeks, Scott shunned the college campus, even driving blocks out of his way to avoid it.

He didn't think he'd blunder into another card game from a long-lost weekend being played in Current Year, but knowing the possibility existed scared him.

He didn't know if he'd join the party again.

He didn't know if he'd go home again if he did.

Weeks became months. Scott's yearning for bygone camaraderie came and went but never exceeded his fear.

One late Friday afternoon, Scott picked up his 2009 Nissan from the shop. It was a crisp fall day, and he found himself admiring the turning leaves in the residential neighborhood near the garage. Minutes later he found himself on autopilot driving down his childhood street. The old cars with 20-inch chrome rims, the overgrown laws, and the barred windows he passed soured his wistful mood.

After a few blocks, the Section 8 housing tapered off. The cars parked along the street remained old but were in much better condition. Scott even saw a few kids ambling along the sidewalk. He thought he recognized them but couldn't be sure.

Scott half-expected to find his mom and dad waiting in lawn chairs in front of their old house. He was pleasantly surprised to find four teenagers exiting a beat-up burgundy Oldsmobile in the driveway instead. All four boys carried hardbound WEG rule books and dice bags--even Ray, the Olds' owner, who at 16 had been the wizened elder of Scott's sophomore gaming group.

"What took you so long?" whined Evan, the droid navigator on the group's tramp freighter. He looked up at adult Scott and squinted, but that was his default.

The game went OK. Steve hadn't had much time to plan the adventure due to imminent midterms, so the party often lost focus. They fell into side-talk, mostly geeking out over EU novels or debating points of continuity. Nobody brought up then-current events or personal stuff. Scott felt that doing so would have violated some unspoken agreement. He did roughly date that evening to one of his mom's vacation weekends. He'd been at his dad's the first time around, and Steve's game hadn't survived the interruption. Scott appreciated the chance to play one last session. He slid right back into his Wookiee bounty hunter as easily as he settled back into his old house.

Scott's fears were realized in the aftermath of Steve's game. His work suffered as he took to drawing up Dark Ages Vampire characters and vintage Magic deck lists at the office. He was outlining concepts for a Champions campaign when he got the call from HR.

The police forced their way into Scott's apartment after he'd missed three alimony payments. They found no sign of him and no clue as to his whereabouts. The place seemed to have been little lived-in, except for a home office strewn with old CCG pack wrappers, enough painting supplies for an army of miniatures, and stacks of late 90s RPG supplements bought used from a local hobby store.

His car finally turned up near a house that had been split up into apartments. Questioning the mostly foreign tenants unearthed no leads. A records search revealed that one of Scott's grade school classmates had lived in the house when it was still a family dwelling. Attempts to reach the old schoolmate hit a dead end when it was learned he was KIA in Afghanistan.

No one knows if Scott was ever seen again. After his ex-wife seized all his assets and he was declared dead, no one cared to ask.


In the mood for some escapism? Check out the haunting, otherworldly Soul Cycle.

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier

78 comments:

  1. Gen Y has an even deservedly danker outlook than Gen X.

    That was a good story.

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    1. Gen X is defined by cynicism; Gen Y is defined by loss.

      The reason we have such a fear of failure is due to not wanting to lose any more than we already have.

      That's what we have to conquer before anything else.

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    2. The best GenXers have grit. They wear a mouth guard because they know the one - two punch is coming. Afterwards they spit out blood and smile a viscious smile that turns their eyes steely and contemptuous.

      FWIW, part of the reason gen x is (sometimes) less afraid to fail is that the message drilled into us from birth was so hateful. Almost all pop culture had some flavor of this: you should have been aborted. You are a constant, annoying drain. Why are you toddlers so needy? Be grateful we're taking 5 minutes out of our never ending me time to acknowledge you exist. Man, I hate babies and kids.

      This was society and pop culture, not that everyone's parents were terrible pieces of shit.

      Then thank God a 180 happened and everyone loved Gen Y! So y'all had better childhoods overall, hence something to

      lose. Gen X didn't have that, so that's where our cynicism comes from. We've been told much of our lives that by existing, we failed to let mommy and daddy live out their dreams (again, society, not everyone's parents).

      That either breaks people (why so many xers are dropping like flies) or turns them into granite and steel.

      We got your back, Y.

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    3. I'm not sure why Boomers suddenly flipped on Gen X to Y like they did, but it was merely one bad extreme to another. It was a strange bit of guilt that they threw away around the time the 20th century ended.

      Dealing with other members Gen Y is always a strange experience. 9 times out of 10 the only way to approach them is through nostalgia or talking about old things. Otherwise they keep to themselves and won't rock the boat.

      We're kind of like the hermit generation at this point.

      Best thing for us to do is to get behind Gen X. Millennials are an alien species and Boomers dumped us ages back. X is the only group we have anything in common with and they have the experience we need to get by.

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    4. "I'm not sure why Boomers suddenly flipped on Gen X to Y like they did, but it was merely one bad extreme to another."

      You're on target when you say it was about guilt. The toys, the trips to McDonald's, and the general coddling were Boomer reparations. They wrote a check to atone for their sins but could not, in their pride, render it to the actual aggrieved parties. That would have been a tacit admission they'd been wrong.

      The result wrought even more evil, as Gen X received no justice, and Gen Y were led down a primrose path to an unseen cliff.

      And the Boomers boomed on with light hearts, congratulating one another on their tough but fair parenting.

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    5. The Boomers are the Jason Voorhees of cohorts: the Boomers in my orbit have high-dollar, post-retirement consulting gigs. Outsourcing and not training replacements means you have to use them for certain skilled jobs. Imagine that! But they're not imparting any skills at this late date. Nope, just booming into the sunset.

      I digress. As Gen Y, this story hits home. You have a talent for these unsettling short stories -- all that's missing is an intro by Robert Stack.

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    6. Thanks. Now you've got me wondering if Robert Stack ever worked with Rod Serling.

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    7. JD wrote “Gen X is defined by cynicism; Gen Y is defined by loss.

      The reason we have such a fear of failure is due to not wanting to lose any more than we already have.

      That's what we have to conquer before anything else.”

      Bingo! Fully concur.

      @Brian - I agree too with your comment on Boomer guilt. Odd thing is I had similar experiences with most Y’s, but I’m the oldest of Gen Jones parents, born Berky early 80’s. Never got the guilt, never got the hate, just didn’t get much of anything but stuff and tv.

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    8. Generations are a spectrum, not a graduated scale.

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  2. That was quite the Twilight Zone episode.

    The ending was suitably low key for a generation going quietly into that night.

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    1. Thanks. The end was also a warning.

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    2. Also, tangentially related, I attended a funeral last year of an older woman who was there for many people of my age when we were kids. She had fallen on hard times, her son had died in a car accident years before, and her husband was gone. But back in the day she was there at the school, the church, even in scouting, to help the kids.

      The Church was nearly empty for the funeral. None of them showed up. I was the only one outside of her remaining family to attend.

      Heard from one friend that he didn't go because he was painting his house that day. He knew far in advance of the date and everything, but decided not to show.

      I suppose I could be more charitable about their reasons for not attending, but I never see them attend church or go to any other funerals either.

      Meanwhile, the old world dies off bit by bit.

      As a sign of things to come, it's not good.

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    3. I will pray for the repose of her soul and the salvation of ours.

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  3. At first I thought this was going to be a tale of someone you knew. The time travel aspect through that out the window. Though, with some of the tales you tell of others I wouldn't put it past it that this happened to someone you knew as well.

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    1. Some of the characters are based on people I knew--old friends long gone. Some are composites of real people with names changed to protect the innocent. Others are fabrications based on real-world trends.

      Whether or not the plot of the story, or events like it, actually happened to someone I knew, I leave to the reader to decide.

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  4. It was very eerie. Mostly I feel lost because I'm in that borderline between X and Y, never at home with either one, and so even when others have their better-defined cohorts, I'm still on the outside.

    OTOH, I thank God for my parents, that they have always stayed together and modeled a good relationship for me. Even if they did sell me on college being necessary. Even then, I was lazy and rebellious and made a hash of it.

    One good thing about college was economics and learning about cost-benefit analyses, and then learning that a) not all costs and benefits are monetary, b) everyone's values (and so utility curves) are different, and c) they're so hideously complicated that even the person can't describe what it is.

    Honestly, this read almost like nihilistic horror. Vastly unsettling.

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    1. Interesting take.

      At the risk of exercising undue authorial fiat in interpreting my own story, I did not intend it to be nihilistic. There's a subtle moral at the end.

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    2. I took from it that parents cared only for themselves and their ease, thinking that spending money instead of time would suffice.

      Breaking family and leading people to what was important for their world and not the world as is. (Success in college and success in life were correlated. As was house ownership. And correlation does not imply causation. So the US Government decided that House Ownership + College = Success, and subsidized the former allegedly hoping to get the latter.)

      And then the visions from the past. I get an unearthly, fey feel to it. I could easily see those as enticements to elfland, never more to see his own country.

      The enticements of true friendship and loyalty.

      As for here? A bleak life, everything stacked against him. Debt piled upon debt and opportunities gone. Going back to the past looks to be the only escape. The only happy time of his life. And when he finally leaves, no-one cares that he's gone. Only that they had taken everything from his estate.

      A cold, bleak world. Fundamentally bleak despair and hollowness.

      How can I judge his decision to escape to elfland and whatever awaits him there, when I have felt that call myself, the strong wish to be in worlds of fiction I read?

      The tone of the story, and the mood I got into while reading it was very similar to the CFXS story in Strange Matter. Apocalpoysis? If the protagonist there was not a Witness, but a Destroyer, Scott could easily be the Destroyed.

      He gave himself up to dreams of happiness, of acceptance that would never be fulfilled in reality, and in so doing removed himself from reality as thoroughly as if he had died from neglect or suicide. At least his dreams were of happiness and acceptance, though, so better than the Soul Cycle short story protagonist who has dreams of envy.

      A very troubling, eerie tale, and this is why I would put it towards noir or nihilism for outlook. Perhaps I am wrong to do so based on the definition of noir/nihilism. If so, I gladly accept correction and clarification.

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    3. Thank you for your insightful and thorough analysis.

      I concur with your categorization of "A Gen Y Tale" as noir. It is moody, the mood is dark, and the protagonist tries to extricate himself from a situation he stumbled into but is only pulled deeper in.

      I object to the classification of nihilism on the grounds that philosophical nihilism is the denial that truth exists, and Scott's tale would lose all coherence if we could not truthfully say that people with a duty to act in his best interests treated him unfairly.

      You bring up an intriguing notion with your reference to "Anacyclosis". Perhaps, instead of the past, Scott could travel to the future and meet Kob Agur. Perhaps he would tell the XSeed pilot his story.

      I think that Kob, from his noble pagan perspective, would tell Scott he had a duty to the family and employer he left behind, regardless of whether or not he felt appreciated, and that he is derelict in that duty.

      He might further say that a defining trait of manhood is to endure suffering without regret or complaint and to master one's desires--virtues which Kob himself did not fully perfect.

      A Christian Witness like Jean-Claude or Ivan or Heather might remind Scott that Christians are not merely called to endure suffering, but that by virtue of his baptism, his priestly soul can lay his sufferings upon the Cross of Christ for the redemption of others.

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  5. Replies
    1. It's fascinating to me how many readers are sympathizing with Scott. Can you expand on why you hope he found happiness?

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    2. He seemed like a lost soul, a victim of his times, whose greatest joy in life was spending time with a close knit group of friends playing games and nerding out. In many ways I can relate

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    3. Who were we supposed to sympathize with? Scott was the only character fleshed out. Not throwing shade, one character is all you have word count for.

      The world treated him like used kleenex, of course he wanted to escape to happier times.

      If Scott's job and alimony situation is based on RL, that state has crummy divorce laws. His ex made more than he did!

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    4. @Crusader Saracen: Thanks for your reply. I honestly expected to get more Boomer style, "Scott should have manned up, rolled up his sleeves & pulled himself up by his bootstraps," reactions. Or, failing that, red-pilled folks accusing him of being a beta.

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    5. "Who were we supposed to sympathize with?"

      Scott's ex, for getting gypped out of 3 alimony checks ;)

      Seriously, though. I left out the part where his dad sued to get out of cosigning the loan. But you can tell it happened if you read between the lines.

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  6. Oof, that resonated strongly. And this really summed up my life in the late 90’s:

    “Senior year caught Scott with no definite plans for the future. The TV, his parents, and his guidance counselors had all said to trust each other, and they'd all agreed that Scott could do whatever he wanted. When he admitted to not especially wanting anything, they told him to get a college degree--any degree. He'd have his pick of jobs after that and could follow his heart to his perfect career.”

    A Boomer asked me the other day why I said I had screwed up my life. He said I didn’t strike him as a guy who went to jail, or had 8 kids (damn Boomer), or was a drug addict. I replied “worse, I took some bad advice.”

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    1. They still can't resist taking jabs at their parents, even with most of them dead.

      Your answer jibes with comments Bradford Walker has made, which also dovetail with JD's.

      Gen Y do fear failure, but it's a rational fear since we're working without a net. Prior generations could slip up and recover with help from a support network. As products of broken homes and an atomized society, with Ys it's often one strike and you're out.

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  7. Open questions for the chat:

    If you happened upon a gathering of friends from your past:
    >When would it have originally taken place (early professional life, college, high school, grade school)?
    >Who would've been there (feel free to use aliases to avoid doxxing).
    >What activity would it have centered around?
    >Would you go in?

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    1. Because I won't ask you to do what I wouldn't do myself ...
      >My senior year of college
      >My future brother-in-law and our mutual friend (at their apartment), plus our regular gaming group.
      >D&D 3rd ed.
      >In a heartbeat.

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    2. Thankfully I’m still young and can say I’m living those times, even if few and far in between and hampered by long distance. But to answer the following queries-

      >My best friend and his brother who i consider brothers of my own choosing
      >watching anime
      >without hesitation

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    3. For me, that's simple.

      >Anytime between 3rd and 6th grade
      >All of my friends, some acquaintances
      >Coming up with our own fictional universes, playing video games
      >Wouldn't even think about it

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    4. By that I mean I'd go right in.

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    5. - High school

      - I had a friend whose house we all hung out in every now and again. He stopped speaking to me senior year, but before that it would be nerd fights with a whole group of buddies and some board games. One is still my best friend today.

      I was a theatre kid, so friendships could sometimes cross sexes. Girls would be invited occasionally, but my friend's parents would be home. They'd join in whatever we were doing.

      - Nerf gun fights, random board games

      - No way.

      I miss theatre a lot more, but hopefully it'll stay a part of my life somehow. At arm's length, to avoid the unbeliavable convergance of the arts.

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    6. When: late teens/early 20s.

      Who: Close friends at college, members of University Christian Fellowship (they ended up being my groomsmen).

      What: Lots of games. Board, card, video, anything.

      Would I go in? No. My sense of reality is too strong. It wouldn't truly be the past, and I'd be leaving my wife and kids. No matter the nostalgia, a) I cannot honorably leave my present duties, and b) the blessings of my current family far outweigh even those duties.

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    7. Perhaps those without familial duties may go, but I must be masculine and persevere where I am.

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    8. Thanks for all the honest replies. I appreciate you all opening up and sharing.

      NB: Let me clarify my last question. For the sake of this thought experiment, consider the past a place you can visit, but you don't have to live there. Think of it as an arcade, a theater, or a restaurant. It's there if you'd like to spend an evening enjoying what's on offer, and you're free to leave anytime.

      Of course, anything can be taken to excess. Scott treated the past like a gambling addict treats a casino.

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    9. Ah. I was treating it as it was in the story: a place that you can, and will, get lost in a la Brigadoon. Or the Hotel California.

      Thinking on it...I still wouldn't go back. I need to make current friends in the here and now. It takes a long time to get me to where I can open up. And if I dallied in the past where things have the appearance of ease, I won't ever make the present or the future better.

      So I would still stay in the present.

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    10. I'd run like the plague. I don't like idolizing the past like that. As Scott himself shows, it's incredibly unhealthy.

      I take responsibility for my current life, and I have the Church and clear direction moving me forward. Some friends from the past left me. I don't need it.

      Would I go back to an old show I was in, high school theatre?

      Again, I want to move forward. Hopefully I'll direct one day and show the kids a masculine direction for theatre. Undoing the feminizationcand perversion of something I love is a worthy goal.

      Idolizing the past is nothing but trouble.

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    11. You have both heard the story's warning.

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    12. High School (11th & 12th)
      Best friends, all of us having grown up together in the neighborhood and school since we were 7.
      DnD 3rd, MtG, hosting parties with alcohol (we had connections and made money off the party...so yes, racketeering), car games, swimming, tag football, soccer, video games (SNES).
      No. I’ve changed too much. Also, I’m not willing to be ignorant to the world (blue pill) ever again.

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    13. Answers:

      1) Sophomore year of college (circa 1994)

      2) My circle of friends at the time, the first very close friends I ever made.

      3) Playing D&D 2nd. Edition or watching horror movie marathons.

      4) I don't think I would have the willpower to not go in.

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    14. "I don't think I would have the willpower to not go in."

      There's no shame in that. At least, I hope not.

      Because I'd be standing at my faerie door, wrestling with the knowledge that I shouldn't go in, but humility is the foundation of all virtues, and I know I'd turn the knob.

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    15. The reply link won't open a box for me, so I'll put it here.

      1) During my last two years of seminary or right after.
      2) The lunch crew from work.
      3) Discussing theology, sci fi, and how they overlap.
      4) The first time without question. I'd be too scared of getting stuck to do it again.

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    16. 1) 1986, Junior High (We didn't call it middle school then, just yet; that came a few years later.)
      2) The guys I played D&D, Car Wars, & BattleTech with.
      3) Dungeon crawls (AD&D1e), stupid TMNT sessions, BTech or Car Wars matches.
      4) No.

      My father once told me, about this time, that he didn't look fondly on his past because it wasn't filled with good memories. Though the specifics are VERY different, I'm now of the same attitude, and why I got here is something I've avoided talking about publicly because it involves a long-running issue.

      When Oliver Campbell streamed his playthrough of Final Fantasy XV, the other Metro City Boys and I were all saying stuff like "How did this sand get in my eyes?" at the end when Noctis tells the guys how important this whole trip with them was to him.

      It ain't subtitled "Brotherhood" for nothing.

      And THAT is why I won't go back. It ain't there; it never was, and they never were. Some men find their brothers in their youth. As is so often the case for me, I don't find it until well past the point when it would have done me the most good.

      But I ain't going to complain. It doesn't help.

      I'll just be grateful that I have them now, and in having them be grateful that I have men worthy of my loyalty at long last.

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    17. Open questions for the chat:

      If you happened upon a gathering of friends from your past:

      >When would it have originally taken place (early professional life, college, high school, grade school)?

      Sometime between Junior and Senior year of high school (so 1998-2000).

      >Who would've been there (feel free to use aliases to avoid doxxing).
      My neighbor/best friend, my other best friend/guitarist in our high school band, about a dozen and a half of our group who spanned the entire gamut of high-school grades.

      >What activity would it have centered around?
      Either playing music/skateboarding, video games (SNES/N64/PS1, or hooking up our DESKTOPS we dragged to my buddy's house to play Diablo, Quake, etc.), or epic board games.

      >Would you go in?

      In a second. God help me, in a goddamn second. This is why I am very grateful to God for not giving me this opportunity.

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    18. I always wondered what Jesus meant when he said, "Pray that you not be put to the final test."

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    19. We were never meant to know the time or place...

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    20. 1) It's a hard pick because there's a lot of good memories. But I would say somewhere between ages 6-12.
      2) Friends from school and neighbourhood.
      3) Play outdoors and then watch cartoons. Maybe some videogames.
      4) I would absolutely go.

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    21. But as other commentators have pointed out, could I ever come back? If I would actually be presented with a chance to step into the fairyland of memories, what stops me from staying there? Temptation would be unbearable and I am but a weak man.

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  8. A deftly woven tale, Mr Niemeier. Well done! Helps to confirm why some choose to leave Boomer World to take up arms in the Culture War for Christendom, Episode XIII.

    Now, where did I put my mace and heater shield? Deus Vult!

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    1. Thanks. Sounds like you'd go further back.

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    2. Not so much. My metaphorical weapons are to face the culture war to come.

      The past is a guide, not a refuge. The future is the path ahead we must walk.

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  9. To further alienate us, one of the prayers at church went thusly: for the immigrant, the refugee, let them not be called foreigners, but welcome friends."

    Never mind heritage Americans.

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    1. Fine. If they're friends, they are welcome to visit. Friends know when to go home.

      If they come with the intention of staying and no intention of respecting American culture and traditions, they're not friends but something else entirely.

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    2. Q: What do you call an immigrant who doesn't assimilate?

      A: A colonist.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Tough one. I've changed so much it's hard to say. Two options present themselves:

    -High School
    -Carpool buddy's house full of friends from choir, across multiple years
    -Playing silly word/dare games and just BSing
    -No, I don't think I'd join. I'd want to, badly, but I don't think it would be good for me or my soul. I know so much more now than I did then, to my sorrow, and the semi innocent fun of those years would only be corrupted by it.

    Alternate:

    -Enlisted time around my first deployment
    -Marine Corps and one or two Army buddies playing cards, drinking, and lying outrageously to each other.
    -In a heartbeat. These are the men who kicked my gamma tendencies out of me and saved me from becoming Scott. They were crude and coarse and I wasn't always perfectly comfortable around them, but they helped me grow up more than High School ever did.

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    1. Thank you for your tribute to your friends and your service.

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  11. Also, am excellent and haunting story. It saddens me to think not only of all the ways our generation was damaged, but also of how I could easily have become Scott. I sympathize with him, but I recognize a cautionary tale when I read one: the past is a foreign country, but also a potentially fatal addiction. It's all too easy to get lost there, and it does one no good to let it stain every waking minute. This one hit home in more ways than one.

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  12. Also: While I find Scott sympathetic, probably not as much as others here.

    In my life - I'm a millennial - I made a lot of mistakes and badly messed my life up. I was also very lucky. One day I decided I was going to start attending Mass again weekly and go to Confession, and my life started changing.

    Now my goals have radically changed, and I started thinking of things in terms of what God wants me to do and not what I want to do. And I can't tell you how much happier I am.

    My own self-loathing remains in a sense, but tempered by gratefulness and joy at Christ's sacrifice.

    So I see in Scott a man who floats along without looking forward or finding solutions, which is why he eventually just gives up and stays stuck in mediocre past memories of pointless bull sessions with no impact on the rest of the world.

    He is to be pitied, but his mistakes are also his own. A man who blames everything on circumstances outside of his own, especially with the freedom of choice offered in modern America, has as much responsibility for his fate as outside forces.

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  13. Well done, Brian! Haunting.An excellent morality play and warning. It had a Christmas Carol feel to it.

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  14. I don't know how universal this impression might be, but the specificity of Scott's dorky preoccupations threw me for a loop as I read it. Lots of moments of, oh, right, I know what's that from. Jeez, how odd to find a __ reference in this context... If I didn't know __ would I be lost here? I'm not in the habit of having my buttons pushed like that these days. Which is funny because I remember, growing up in the 90s, callouts to pop culture in everything. From Tiny Toons to Barenaked Ladies. It all presumed tge omnipotence of the monoculture; the Barenaked Ladies with the X Files, Tiny Toons with Citizen Kane. We're far too atomized for that now. Or, are we? As I'm typing I'm remembering that pop culture callouts haven't gone away; Seth MacFarlane built an empire on the back of them. I personally retreated so far from it all in my consumption that any signals from pop culture I recognize feel strange. I admit I feel torn about it. I still sort of like that you'd have to be of a certain age and nerdy to appreciate the hallmarks of Scott's life. Let these things not be completely lost to time. But it does feel unseemly. That much the better to bring home the incomplete nature of our protagonist's connecting with life and the world around him. God I knew so many people line this.

    If I were to compare the tale to a specific weird tale anthology I'd go to Tales from the Dark Side. An ambiguous "happy ending" for a doomed character, a big middle finger to the cruel world he left behind, no firm easy answers anywhere. I am thinking more of the Ted Gershuny ones than the Michael McDowell ones.

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    1. I always liked Tales from the Dark Side better than The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.

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  15. I should mention that my intent to "visit" such a scene is not spurred on by the fact that I dislike my current life so much as to flee it. It is more to the fact that as a curiosity I would like to see it again and check if the experience and my memories hold true.

    I would not stay because I have a life and responsibilities far removed from that time, but that doesn't mean I can't peek on what was and see if I can learn anything from it.

    The reason most in Gen Y would find it tempting to visit where X and Millennials would not is because most of our lives were spent in a constant downhill slide. It is not always easy to remember that existence as a whole is not like that, there are ups and downs, and visiting a time one thought of as "good" would help give perspective. It isn't an easy thing to explain.

    But if you want to live in the past then I suggest going to church and praying instead of burrowing down into memories. Find yourself purpose in the here and now. Even if the past was better, you can do something to make the present at least a little more bearable for yourself and others. Don't make the same mistake boomers did and give up on yourself.

    It won't always be this way.

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    1. This thought experiment unexpectedly provides a useful data point for sorting participants into their generational cohorts.

      As you observed, Xers and Millennials wouldn't go back. Ys would.

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  16. Wow, I really praise this short piece. We're all there/here.

    Growing up in the most affluent time in America since the 1950's, the 80's and 90's post-Cold War suburbia spawned a generation of wanderers, people materially rich but spiritually poor. We are searching for meaning in an era of the sensational and mundane.

    Remember,

    "No matter where you go...there you are."

    as Buckaroo Banzai would say.

    https://youtu.be/lrZ-wixvvYo

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    1. That is a reference I have not heard in a long time.

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    2. Dude! +100 points for the Buckaroo Banzai reference. Now you've got me whistling the little end credits sequence.

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  17. Interesting tale. Since I am born in 1991 I could be classified as a millenial but the thing is that I'm finnish. Whatever trends are going in farther west, they affect our country with delay; so definitely a Y here. On the other hand, since we have different history and culture, this generational divide isn't nearly as steep. My parents are late boomers I guess, but they were always there. We also have had frequent interactions with relatives and so on. So this generational thing isn't really a part of my identity, even though I recognise many of the experiences.

    It makes you wonder, how much of this is an american thing? It would be cool to hear stories from other western countries and how they view generational divides there.

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    1. The generational continuum we're working from seems to hold across the Anglophone world--the British call their Boomers by another name, but it describes the same phenomenon. I don't know how it maps to other parts of the world.

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  18. Speaking of memories, I recently had a most nostalgic dream. I was 12 again and with my schoolmates at the graduation ceremony. I got to relieve the experience, we were at the stage celebrating to the rhythms of music. I felt happier than I have in a long time. It's not that I am lonely per se, but that I don't see my friends of old and new so often anymore. It's not what it used to be...

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    1. Interesting. I've been having more lucid dreams lately, too.

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  19. Hi Brian, this post really struck a chord, like many of your others discussing pop culture, generational changes, and the death of pop culture in the 1996-1997 timeframe (an idea I've come to agree with wholeheartedly). A little background before I give you two answers to this thread: I'm 42 years old, career military, attended one of the federal military academies in lieu of college, and I'm first generation middle-middle class who grew up in the suburbs of a formerly important East Coast city my parents moved just a little away from. Six years of Catholic school. I VERY much find myself on that cusp of X-er and Gen Y; I've seen microcategories before, such as "MTV Generation," "Star Wars Generation" and "Oregon Trail Generation" for my demographic. Your mileage may vary.

    1) If you happened upon a gathering of friends from your past:
    >College
    >Fellow cadet members of the Wargaming Club
    >West End Star Wars RPG or Shadowrun
    >No, and here's the reason 1) one of absolute last places on Earth I want to go back to except for a full-on class reunion is the academy - no thanks. Also, after years of self-reflection, I don't like who I was back then. The short version, I had my head so far up my backside for a whole host of reasons, many of which yourself and other posters have touched on, that I can fairly call much of my teens and nearly all my twenties, professional accomplishments aside, a wasted. Because I know that games end, because I know that parties aren't meant to last, and because when they're over, you're still stuck with the same problems you had before the fun time started, I don't want to go back there again. The past is past. I would rather meet up with those friends NOW, and play NOW, and have that be a part of my life NOW, than relive any of that.

    Now, the more tempting offer:
    If you happened upon a gathering of friends from your past:
    >Early professional life
    >This would be my third band I played in during my 2 years in South Korea, and my squadron mates, either line up.
    >The last show we played before we broke up (everybody was moving on to a new assignment, including me), especially the second set which - somehow - we played well, well above our level, as a band punched so far above our weight class it was incredible.
    >I know I shouldn't but I probably would, and I would because I've played in other bands since, but I've never had that same high from playing, that same rush, that same in the moment - it's different when you're in your 30s and 40s. Now, if we had grown a pair and held the reunion show that we talked about doing about 10-11 years ago, I wouldn't probably go in the past scene, but I wouldn't want to do a reunion now, that moment has passed. I want to play again, I want to bring my kid (hopefully plural someday) up in music, but unless I can find and build that band that just "clicks" plus, somehow, the camaraderie that only comes from being in the tightly tuned brotherhood (and sisterhood even) of a ready to fight right now fighter squadron at the top of its game before time and life breaks it apart, the closest thing I can think of must have been those early rock shows, those early punk shows maybe. I'll never get THAT feeling back, but I'm struggling to find something that gives me that much intensity. I've gone back to the Church, I'm seeking out more knowledge and tradition of the pre-Vatican II era and hopefully a spiritual director to guide me, now, I write and just published my first short story with a line on a second, but I can't stay away from music forever.

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    1. Thank you for telling us your story. It offers much hard-won wisdom to ponder, and from a new perspective.

      Your taste in tabletop RPGs is superb.

      Praise God for the grace of reversion, and thank you for sharing and for your service.

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