I remember very clearly the mid-90s. We were coming out of the end of the Cold War, and despite unrest in Rwanda and developing in the Balkans, it felt like everything could change for the better just that fast.
Plus, there was this computer revolution going on that was going to do everything.
This was around the time I was introduced to the Chemical Brothers. Their debut Exit Planet Dust still stands for me as the soundtrack of an era of optimism, where we felt like we could do anything. (Also, owning that album, along with William Orbit’s Strange Cargo III and Orbital’s 2, is required for being a person.)
They were some of the music on Microsoft commercials pre-Windows 95… or maybe after. I can’t find them, honestly, but I quite clearly remember Life is Sweet’s hook being in one of their ads. I remember being in the living room of my old house, and I remember it being sunny. Morning. Like stuff was about to happen. I was soon to be off to college. It’s also when I became addicted to information, to knowledge. It’s why I read newspapers voraciously to this day.
That era of optimism got eroded as the 90s drew to a close, both due to a presidency (I’ve never claimed to be non-biased, and I watched with incredulity as otherwise intelligent people started beating the drums of war) and, for me, due to a change in music. The electronic music revolution gave way to that terrible rap-metal shit. The early 00’s were a popular music wasteland… though there were gems.
The internet, too, went from being this vast store of knowledge in which we all participated to a commercialized space where we were sold stuff. Now we willingly share every detail about our lives so that social media giants can monetize it. That would have been unthinkable in the days of Exit Planet Dust. We weren’t that stupid.
I heard “Three Little Birdies Down Beats” again the other day. It reminded me of not just this journey we’ve all been on over these two decades, but the path mine took. I remember a lot of the early 2000s as dark, all the way until I moved to upper Michigan. I remember working very long and very odd hours to make ends meet. I remember thinking I would never own a home.
Then I got all of my education done, and it still felt like I couldn’t reach that potential I wanted. I came in second for a lot of jobs. Out of a hundred or so, sure, but second. That traction was never there. The soundtrack really wasn’t, either. The scenery was nice.
Last year I came out, to most of those around me and to myself, as non-binary. I also decided, fuck it, I’m going to go and chase this thing I wanted, even if it means I have to leave home (yes, that was a musical reference; thank you if you got it). I criss-crossed the country looking at jobs. I found potential new homes and got my heart broken once or twice. And I got one. One where I was really wanted.
Yesterday, Boxing Day, I was looking out my patio window in my little apartment. I love my little apartment. And “Three Little Birdies Down Beats” came on again. It was a much different view from my old childhood home’s living room. For one thing, it was -10 here yesterday. Brr.
But all of that promise from 1994. All of what could happen. All of what did happen for some of my friends. All of what never felt like would happen for me. You know what? I’m just about there. I have my career and my life. I can be me. I’m making good money and paying down my debts. I’ll own a home, the kind of home I want, in a couple of years. I have savings and a healthy retirement account.
I sit here with my Kindle Oasis and read news from around the world, and I’m a bit giddy and a bit baffled. Much like us kicking the door down to the information age, we made it… even if we didn’t realize it.
And here I sit, realizing I’ve finally made it to where I want to be, too. It’s sunnier now. It’s full of promise. Life is sweet.