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What comes to mind when you think of the year 2014?

If you’re anything like me, you immediately associate the year with its distinctive online aesthetic… that is, after getting past the initial tidal wave of horrific middle school flashbacks.

From Arctic Monkeys’ timeless “AM” blasting from every teen’s speakers to the massive, somewhat confusing hype around American Apparel tennis skirts, 2014 was a truly iconic year for Gen Z.

At the time, though, it didn’t seem nearly as pleasant as it does in hindsight.

Personally, I remember spending just about every angsty moment of the early 2010s anticipating the future. I fully embraced Tumblr’s soft grunge aesthetic, indie-music-obsessed peak, of course, but I can’t promise you I was any happier because of it.

I’ve found that one’s middle school experience and early teenage years tend to hold a universal sore spot in our life stories — something we’d rather forget about than ever come close to reliving.

I was in the seventh grade all those long, arduous years ago, right in time for the heavy influx of low-contrast pictures of denim jackets and Doc Martens on my social media feeds, nearly all of them captioned with pretentious John Green quotes.

The Internet’s angst matched the energy of my middle school-induced inner turmoil, and it was beautiful.

In retrospect, the idealized simplicity of minimalist aesthetics and listening to “Robbers” by The 1975 on loop sounds great, but I think we can all agree we’d never want to actually relive those years.

Right?

I’ve started to question my stance on this after seeing 2014 Tumblr and Instagram trends resurface on social media feeds in the past few months.

Recently, TikTok audios reminiscing about popular alternative music from 2012 to 2014 started circulating on my For You page. At the same time, I noticed more and more ripped tights and monochromatic outfits popping up on my feed as I scrolled through Instagram.

And somehow, without realizing it, I started following suit. I found myself revisiting all these golden bits of nostalgia.

All of a sudden, I was listening to “Pure Heroine” by Lorde again for the first time in years. I reread “The Fault in Our Stars” in its entirety after hardly thinking about it since the seventh grade.

I even cracked and, though I hate to admit it, bought a black tennis skirt to pair with my Docs.

That was probably the moment when I fully realized 2014 Tumblr was making its highly unexpected and confusing comeback, and I was already on board.

I don’t think I’m the only Gen Z kid that can say 2014 was one of the most painfully awkward and unhappy years of my life, so I’m honestly still a little dumbfounded that we’re returning to any semblance of this aesthetic.

But the more I’ve been forced to consider and tackle our current exhausting situation in 2021, it’s making more and more sense that Gen Z is already nostalgic for things that happened seven years ago.

Looking back, of course, it was a simpler time — I’d much rather have to worry about matching an oversized flannel to my outfit than a mask.

As we all know, though, hindsight is 20/20, and you can’t blame younger generations for wanting to grow up sooner.

I feel like this strange version of "reject modernity, embrace tradition" is mostly shocking because of how relatively recent the early 2010s were, but I’m all for a healthy dose of escapism wherever I can get it — even if it’s in something as simple as the revival of grunge-era Tumblr.

Emily Davison is a 19-year-old anthropology and English sophomore from Denham Springs.

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