“That 70’s Show”
By, Mike Pugh
So, as I am traveling (currently in Koh Phangan, Thailand) and working on the next phase of my life and what to do and what the next steps are in making my purpose and passion come together in a way that not only serves the youth of this current era, but also the youth and friends of my era, the 70’s, I once again come across “THAT 70’s SHOW”
I was 55 years old, working and living at a ski resort. About 1year prior I had decided to take a long trip to see and meet people all over the world. I sold most of my stuff and put the rest into storage. I had committed to myself to work at least half the ski season for my returning clients and for the staff, which were my friends. While I prepped for this trip, I worked at two jobs to help supplement my income as I was partly retired. I would become fully retired in November 2017. I emptied my place in Colfax Ca. and moved onto ski resort property in July of 2017. I had brought my TV and only had Netflix and would watch a little before bed. I was a pretty busy guy. I would switch back between a couple different series but I always came back to slapstick and mindless crap to fall asleep to. Somewhere along the way, as I had never watched “THAT 70’s SHOW” when it came out but just bits and pieces randomly over the years, I decided to watch from the beginning. I am a sappy sitcom kid that loves dumb jokes and simple times. I have never been much into crime/drama etc. but action/adventure and sitcoms always captured my soul and spirit.
I departed in February of 2018 on a trip for an undisclosed time. Part of the reason for this trip was to explore, but also to spend time on my computer cleaning up old stuff, writing new stuff and looking at my past and future and to get it down in writing. As I would come back to my new places in my travels exhausted from walking and sightseeing, I would plop down for a little Netflix and well, you now… That 70’s show. Mindless stupid comedy.
Now as my trip and my new life abroad began to unfold, I realized, I am not some guy that has been molded and guided into a super successful, High achieving, rich, good looking, having it altogether example of right living but in fact, I was guided and molded and haphazardly failing and dreaming and striving for a good life exactly like the characters in “THAT 70’s SHOW”. I am all of those characters rolled (pardon the pun) into one!
As I kept being drawn back into my past through this show, (I would watch a couple episodes a night) I discovered that this show was an excellent way for me to draw out and discard old feelings and old ideas and to test my current thoughts and ideas on how to reach out and teach current era teens and also past era adults that it’s OK to not be Facebook/snapchat perfect but to accept my past and share it and heal so that others have permission to do the same.
I was a “dumbass”. I didn’t hang out in Wisconsin but in small town Northern California. We didn’t have a basement but a bungalow out back. We didn’t have snow but coastal fog and kegger parties. Pretty much all of the rest of the show was my teen years verbatim. Never before has a show so nailed my persona and my trials and tribulations as a teen as this show. While the show is vulgar, immature, degenerate, racist and sexist, so were the 70’s.
While in my early childhood, I had wanted to be so many admiring and inspiring characters like Sandy on Flipper or Greg Brady or Grizzly Adams, I end up like Eric Foreman, Steven Hyde, Michael Kelso and Fez (we still don’t know his last name or country) in different times of my teen years and early adult years. We had parents around like Red and Kitty Foreman and Bob and oh ya… Tanya Roberts! This show is Me!
This show is America and I venture to say many other countries as well. TV and Media portrayed us youth in the 70’s as wholesome good kids. In reality, like this show, we were confused, insecure, troubled youth. As I write this in my 50’s, I see I grew up in a black and white era. Not color of skin but of concepts. If I wasn’t good, I was bad. If I wasn’t smart, I was dumb. If I wasn’t handsome, I was ugly. If I wasn’t rich, I was poor. This plays out in our youth today. What happened to all the gray area in the middle?
As each week and episode through the 8 seasons unfolded, I would watch Eric be so in love with Donna and her so in love with him. Then as he thought, as his insecurities and doubts grew, he would do something so stupid and end up destroying the relationship. Over and over. Then They would head to the basement, to the “circle” to cope and smoke out and drink to figure out life and what went wrong. (favorite Eric Foreman Quote “Talking isn’t going to help okay! What’s going to help me is, like, drinking”) How many grand plans did I have in the “circle”? (We had an escape place in the redwoods of Occidental California that we would go to, to figure it all out… How many brain cells lost in the woods?) How many countless times did I not have the nerve to say what I wanted to a girl? How many insecure moments of suffering in my own mind did I go through in those years? How many wrong comments to be funny or right? Memory after memory would come up of my own experiences watching these episodes.
My senior year was a mess. I dated someone that I was “in love” with, “the one”. We met and became inseparable. I was naïve and shy. Scared shitless is more like it. I had arrived and was bulletproof at the same time (usually right after the “circle”). Something happened toward the end of the year and she moved. In my heart I wanted to go after her, in reality, my heart broke and my life was over. I went to the “circle” with my friends and added yet another regret to my still young life. For many years after this, I would talk about her and compare her to others. No one ever matched up to the false image I had created. (Years later in our 40’s we reunited on the phone and social media. We talked it through and discovered we were both train wrecks, passing in the night. We had a good laugh talking about our teen years and all of the destruction. We are good friends today.)
UGH… next was the non-tough guy, misunderstood, sensitive, loving, kind guy that I had to hide inside because I had to be a “man” at 16 years old because Tatum O’Neil wanted Kelly Leek and I was more like Tanner Boyle or Ogilvie. (revisit original bad news bears). I was always a better athlete and a tougher guy that I really was. Again with the gray area…
Did I mention clumsy? My Dad used to tell people I would trip over the painted lines on the basketball court, while I was standing there. I laughed along but inside I said… “you’re the dumbass”. I like to think I was smarter than Michael Kelso but in order to fit in and to be that guy, I blew up, jumped off, skied down, drove through, acted like, said this, teased them, laughed at him/her etc… all day long. I was that guy that would take something and then ask what it was. “Oh you should have seen you last night” “I can’t believe you said that” were badges of honor. My favorite Michael Kelso quote… “I’m like ketchup, I go good on everything”! I was embarrassed of my behavior but it got the laugh or attention so I laughed it off.
I used my friends so I wouldn’t have to be alone. I used drugs and alcohol so I wouldn’t feel or remember that I had promised myself I would/would not (insert productive task or bad habit here) but instead avoid what I needed to do and head to the “circle”. I had dreams and goals like the characters in the show but I would put off the daily tasks needed to achieve these goals. I was a perfectionist in the sense that if I couldn’t get results instantly, or have all the answers, I wouldn’t start. Then I would feel guilty and need to check out. Now remember the gray area? I was not a total burnout and I was not valedictorian. I was somewhere in the middle, but I didn’t know that at the time. At any given time, I was far superior to your ass and a big piece of shit at the same time.
So what does “THAT 70’s SHOW” have to do with my life now? I believe that I and we, store up and hold on to our past. Unless we can find a way to deal with these issues, we will keep repeating them. My solution for many years was to find things outside of me to fix me. At thirty-five years old, all of my outside solutions quit working. I abandoned my family and proceeded to slowly kill myself by drinking and drugging. I 100% quit life. I had no more plans. I was done trying to figure it out. Soon after surrendering I found help. The last two decades have been about change and discovery. The gray area. I am not alone. Millions of us lived the 60’s and 70’s in this way. Even 18-19 years later I am still discovering and learning. “THAT 70’s SHOW” was one more example of my past, and using the tools I have gained over time, I can look at my past and let it go. We are good people. We did our best with the cards dealt. There is no shame or blame.
As I continue to help others, teach methods of change and grow with others, it doesn’t hurt to have another way to relate to people out there that are still hurting, still stuck. One question that may come up in our work together may be… Which character do you relate to most on “THAT 70’s SHOW?