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Stolen Youth

Last night my wife and a couple of my kids went to see what we used to call “big time wrestling” at the Fort Wayne Coliseum. As a kid I used to be into that, back when it was Hulk Hogan, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Andre the Giant, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, the Iron Sheik and Sergeant Slaughter and now my one adult son especially is into it. I didn’t go, large crowds and noise don’t agree with me these days so I decided to download and watch Vision Quest from 1985.

If you aren’t familiar with Vision Quest, it was a film about a high school wrestler named Louden Swain who decides that he is going to drop two weight classes to wrestle a monster called Brian Shute. Along the way a beautiful girl comes into his life and threatens to distract his quest to lose the weight and get on the mat with Shute. It is a pretty standard sports movie, sort of a Rocky/Karate Kid but for wrestlers. As an 8th grader the year it came out who joined the wrestling team, I can’t overstate how powerful the film was for me and my teammates (and every other 1980s wrestler). When Louden and Kuch see Shute walking up the bleachers with a damn half telephone pole…..

And Shute asks Louden if he thinks he will make the weight, to which Louden replies “I don’t know, I hope so” and then Shute replies “I hope so too”. Damn, that was cool in 1985 and still is today even though Shute is clearly way bigger than 168 pounds.

The soundtrack might be the best for a sports movie ever. When Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider comes on the radio today, I still get chills. My best friend and I watched it so many times we could, and sometimes would, recite the dialogue from the entire movie from memory. But as I watched again last night, for the hundredth time maybe, I found myself really paying attention to the opening song by Journey, Only The Young, and the chorus….

Only the young can say
They’re free to fly away
Sharing the same desires
Burning like wildfire

I remember well what life was like in the 1980s as a high school kid. Even with the Cold War still in full swing and the threat of global thermonuclear war hanging over our heads, we were still so very optimistic. We looked forward to the future. For a high school kid in the 1980s, the future possibilities were limitless. We had fun every weekend, played sports, hung out with friends, fell in and out of love and then back in again. The music was incredible. The girls were feminine and beautiful, just discovering the power of their sexuality while at the same time remaining aloof and modest in their own way. Nobody wore sweatpants or pajamas to school. The mall was the place to hang out and no one got shot because some exuberant youths decided to shoot each other.

Do you remember what that was like? The boundless optimism, the sense that anything was within your grasp?

It wasn’t all perfect of course. Looming on the horizon in 1985 were the crack epidemic and the gang wars. Movies like Colors in 1988, and Boyz n the Hood and New Jack City in 1991 would introduce suburban and country White kids to a world we never saw, a world of drugs and drive-by shootings. Wall Street was mired in a world of insider trading with guys like Ivan Boesky, Michael Miliken and Dennis Levine getting rich and then getting busted. But in most of the country things were still great. The Gipper was President and it was morning in America again.

Fast forward to today. Do you get any sense of optimism, of hope, of any actual happiness among high school kids today?

What occupies their attention?

Getting upvotes on social media. The threat of everyone dying from “climate change”. Racism. 20% of teens thinking they are transvestites or homosexual. More racism. A nation in decline. Constant, fleeting little shots of amusement via TikTok.

I don’t see any sense of optimism or hope for the future. Most young people seem incredibly jaded and pessimistic, assuming things are only going to get worse in the future.

What would high school have been like for us if we had looked to graduation with nothing but a sense of dread? When we sewed the graduation numerals on our letter jackets, “90” in my case, it was an exciting time but that graduation year for the class of 2025 can’t really be something those kids are looking forward other than just the chance to get away from high school.

Again, things weren’t perfect in the 1980s. Some people were miserable in high school but isn’t it better that a few people have a crappy time than everyone being miserable?

While most of my youthful enthusiasm and optimism for the future was wildly overblown and unrealistic, isn’t that part of youth? The sense of wonder, of expectation and excitement, has been stolen from today’s soon to be adults. It is hard to imagine them as adults being anything other than resentful and unhappy. The sullen, slovenly and soft teens of today with their blue and pink hair, pasty skin and conditioning to see their very existence as somehow an affront seem destined to being the same as adults. How can teens that were forced to wear paper masks in school and not allowed to even go outside to hang out have the same sense of youthful vigor that we did?

The hope for the future that teens should have has been stolen from them by the same miserable people that endlessly hector the rest of us who just want to do our jobs, raise our families and be left alone. The only solace I take is knowing that those childless harridans will be ignored as they age and die by the unhappy teens who will become unhappy adults in the future.

Youth should be a time for unrealistic expectations and unfounded optimism, not what we see on display in today’s teens. Yet another crime for which They need to be held to account.


  1. Boone

    Amen; Class of ’85; graduated college ’89. They jokingly say nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, but I say nostalgia has never been stronger for me. During the Covid years, I often thought that I would trade the future for one good weekend back in the ’80s. We loved to cruise our cars and hang out with the opposite sex whenever possible. I have two kids now and I know for certain that they have nowhere near the joy in living, optimism and patriotism that I had and shared with my friends during that decade.

  2. KDOG

    Wow, your post brought me down memory lane. I graduated high school in 1985, and Vision Quest was an awesome movie (so was Officer and a Gentleman, from 1982). Young women actually looked like young women, no purple hair, tattoos or whales back then. I feel bad for teens today, and you’re absolutely right, they have had their youth stolen, thanks to smart phones, the Covid scam, indoctrination in schools, social media, etc.

      • LGC

        oh gawd this. Being a woman today is easy street, all you have to do is not be fat and you are AUTOMATICALLY an 8 or a 9.

        I watch the kids walk home from school and at least half of them are already fat. (middle school). Fine some of us might be fat now, but we it took until mid 30s/40’s to get there. These kids are SCREWED, they are going to be HUGE by 25.

  3. Antipodean

    Amazing what happens when you turn off the mobile phone – Yes ! They have an “off button”. Same as laptops, computers, iMacs, iPads, tablets, cable, broadcast TV and radio.

    Typically I’m out of bed an hour to 90 minutes before the sun rises.

    I’ve noticed that my morning ritual was put the kettle on, jump onto the blogs I read and 90 mins to 2 HOURS later, (and four-to-five strong cups of black coffee), I was finally ready to start my day.

    When the “beer-bug” was first kicking off, I’d get up, have a tall glass of water, about two minutes later I’d have my first cup of coffee, then on with the exercise clothes and out the door for AT LEAST an hours walk. Irrespective of whether it was rain, hail or clear skies.

    That is the secret.

    As much as I love my daily blog-reading, it’s really a waste of time that causes me to get thoroughly annoyed about a heap of things I have precisely zero influence or control over. Its also a lost chance to improve my fitness and health. And my mood, productivity and even my outlook.

    Turn on the TV, radio, glance at your mobile “devices” and there’s nothing but joy, fun and good news ! Right ? ? ?

    Why spend a fraction of your day bothered about – “insert the latest distraction” – here ? ? ?

    Focus on yourself, your loved ones, family & friends and appreciate the wonderful things all around us all the time. Forget the “great many troubles, many of which never happened” and enjoy the present.

    And consume blogs (& Heaven forbid – “media”) as though it were alcohol – responsibly.

  4. mike fink

    That was a good film. I liked it then and recently was able to see it on one of the cable channels. Reagan’s America was a brief few years off regeneration in what has otherwise been a steady decline since the 1960’s. I was a newly minted Infantry Lieutenant that Spring and had limitless optimism and faith in America and the American way. What a fool I was. Oh well, live and learn. Vision Quest is a sleeper film, but it does capture the feel off that decade from a heartland perspective if nothing else. When I watched it a month ago I had the feeling I had seen Swain’s fake indian sidekick somewhere. Looked it up and it was “Jake” from 16 Candles, Imagine that.

  5. Fetch My Flying Monkeys

    I’m a faithful follower of yours but rarely comment but this post brought it all home! I’m a few years ahead of you in age but you just gave the current world the big “Whammo!”
    WTF has happened? We can’t put the cat back in the bag anymore. Sad, so sad for the youth.

  6. Anonymous White Male

    You imply something that is overlooked in the Drag Queen Story Hour “debate”. Kids must be allowed to keep their innocence as long as possible. It doesn’t matter if mentally ill trannies need to have their identity validated. Girls need to keep their virginity until married. Boys don’t need to see porn on the internet. Kindergarteners don’t need to see Reggie/Regina’s wang sticking out of his costume. If you don’t have that hope, that youthful optimism, even though you will lose it, you will be a crippled adult that will be incapable of caring about anything.

      • rto-jerry

        The repercussions of swindling youth with that sick covid mask mandate will be hell to pay. Buried deep in the souls of da yute is pure rage.

        That stated, I’d give a body part to return to the 80’s! Optimism of a great decade!! Served up on the Czechia border(84-87) and as ominous the thought of 5 divisions crashing westward, we were chock full of abundant enthusiasm and optimistic futures. What an era!
        I do hope youth can experience such exuberance once again, sooner the better!!

      • Mr. Mayo

        The really scary part is that some of them are going to go to work for the government, being involved in policy decisions, or worse, teaching. Some of them will end up in public office too. It’s going to get worse.

        @LGC, re. weight / fitness – hey, just look at their role models now. Lizzo? Remember the Calvin Klein tubby billboard? Speak truth? Yeah, enjoy your heart attack / stroke.

  7. Some guy

    You’re right, mostly. But my nephews are all ok. They hate commies, work jobs, do good at school, are respectful, and have manners. Its not all kids that are like what you see I guess. A smart and based adult figure goes a long way. Don’t write em all off. Talk to them. Train them to think. To ride. Speak truth. And shoot straight.

  8. LGC

    I”m on an internet forum and I”m by far the oldest person (i’m your age, GenX best X), most of them are in their 20’s and lower 30’s. In some argument I asked for them to name one thing besides the surveillance state that was better now for regular people than 15 or 20 years ago.


    Nobody could come up with anything.

  9. Moe Gibbs

    Another fun fact about Vision Quest – it featured the last song Madonna recorded that is still worth a listen – Crazy For You. I was thinking about that song only last night, but couldn’t remember which 80s movie it was featured in. Thanks for the reminder (and you’re welcome now for the earworm).

    Also featured in the film was one of my favorite songs from my own high school days – Time For Me to Fly. The songs we listened to in our youth are the soundtrack of our lives, and that one was certainly on repeat through my turbulent late teens. It reminds me especially of enduring a broken heart just before beloved wife descended from on high to set things right, and has rocked this casa on numerous nostalgic Saturday nights.

    The kids today have no idea what they’ve missed. Maybe that is for the best, for they hate their parents enough as it is.

  10. Jay L

    I never saw Vision Quest, but I understand your point. My most inspirational film back then was Breaking Away… where the kids from a dying middle class town take on the rich University kids and prevail. They showed us kids that heart and perseverance were more important than money and popularity…you don’t see films like that these days.
    I seriously miss optimism. I remember what it felt like, but it’s been a couple decades since I personally experienced it on a deep level.

  11. Jeffrey Zoar

    I graduated HS in the late 80s and I remember being distinctly unenthused about the prospect of becoming a commuting automaton in the corporate world, a fate toward which most of my peers seemed to be headed. As it turned out, I mostly avoided that, but that’s another story.

    Maybe if we’d had social media back then we’d have been just as screwed up as today’s kids. Dating, for instance, was easy back then. You met girls, at school or church or at informal parties. Next thing you knew you were swapping spit. Nowadays she puts up a picture of herself on a dating site and instantly has guys from around the world slobbering over her. How can a regular guy compete with that?

    But I digress. The reason the kids aren’t as optimistic is the adults aren’t as optimistic, and that trickles down. The adults, for whatever reason, no longer believe in our culture. It’s supremely ironic that this loss of faith was simultaneous with the US/GAE reaching an unprecedented level of wealth and power. In that sense we should all be happier than pigs in shit.

    Perhaps we are spoiled. Perhaps I am spoiled. But I don’t think I am. At the same time I think a great many folks are. And like all spoiled children, it is never good enough, they only want more.

    What the youth of today know, that we didn’t know back then, is that the people in charge do not give a shit about them, and are even acting to rein them in, herd them like cattle, throttle and quell them. And they know this regardless of which side of the political divide they are on. They are either being persecuted for their queer transgender selves, or because they want to smoke pot, or because they are a “minority,” or they are being persecuted because they are white and traditional. Everybody is a victim now. 100%.

  12. Michael Hendrix

    “I remember well what life was like in the 1980s as a high school kid.”

    Enjoy it while you can, buddy. As my own high-school days in the mid-70s slowly recede in the rearview mirror, I’m reminded again that memory is yet another thing that doesn’t improve with age. 😉

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