When I was a kid, the year 2000 seemed a million miles away. I used to talk to my friend Darryl about what we might be doing then because I'd be 29 and he'd be 27, and that was old, right?
Of course, now in 1998, and only a matter of days away from being 27 years old, I have changed the boundaries of what I think 'old' is, but what of those predictions? What about all the things we as kids thought we as adults would be doing? The only recollection of our predictions I have is the belief that I had that I would be married, and what's more, that I'd be married with children! My powers of prediction were not well-honed at that time, although I suppose there is still time for that prediction to come to fruition.
The truth is I am pretty far away from where I thought I'd be, and despite the time remaining until the next millennium, I wonder if any of the things that I thought I'd be doing in the future will happen at all. In the late seventies, I was still watching a TV show called 'Space 1999' that portrayed the everyday lives of some people in the year 1999. These people lived in space and had aliens for friends! In 1968 Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick made '2001: A Space Odyssey', a movie that imagined space travel, intelligent computers, and a space station that looked like a futuristic hotel from the nineteen sixties. When it was far off, there was something space aged about the year 2000. In our imagination, the millennium represented a giant leap forward for humanity, a future far removed from the past that got us there.
Now, as we stand on the doorstep of the millennium, our space station lives seem as far away as ever and many computers are currently exposed to a problem that sounds almost too trivial to be true. In the 1970s and 1980s, programmers saved what was then valuable computer space by abbreviating years to two digits - like 98 or 85 - knowing that this would cause mayhem in the year 2000. Computers would be unable to make sense of a four-digit number and would crash or start churning out erroneous data. But because of the fast-moving nature of the world of information technology, there was a widely held belief that this problem would cease to exist years before 2000 dawned. We would have advanced beyond such a small problem by then, or so they thought. This assumption was false and companies around the world are scurrying to fix the problem. Some face bankruptcy with the possibility that their business plans, customers, and contacts will disappear into a cyberspace black hole. Indeed, the problem is so important that the US government alone has already spent an estimated 2.8 billion dollars in an attempt to fix the 'Y2K bug.'
Of course, technology has moved on dramatically since the days when Darryl and I wondered about the big 2K. You are reading this article written by me, a normal guy in his normal house in England, and you could be anywhere on the face of this planet. That in itself is a huge leap in technology. I have a computer here with more storage and processing power available to me than was available to my Dad's company back in the 1980s! The internet and personal computer revolution is just one example of the huge advances technology has made.
Preparations for New Year's Eve 1999 are already in full swing. In Greenwich, London, the biggest dome building in the world is being built to be the focal point of a huge party being planned for the London Docklands. Time Square, New York is planning something "very special" as are nearly all other major cities around the world. And as I searched the web for information on millennium parties it soon became clear that New years Eve 2000 (the real millennium) will also be a huge party night too!
In many ways, though, the year 2000 is a somewhat daunting milestone. I mean, for me, New Year's Eve always has a bittersweet taste. In one way, you are really happy to see in the new year and the party that goes hand in hand with it. But on the other hand, it is a time when you can't help but look back at what you have done. With my birthday in January, it is also a time when I seem powerless to avoid taking stock of where I am in my life. I can't help but think of some of the ambitions that I have had that still seem so ambitious, while some of them seem like they should have already happened.
It frightens me a little that time seems to have escaped my attention. I can remember 10 years ago with the clarity of yesterday's memories, and all the time between then and now seems to have flown by like the blurred scenery of a roller-coaster ride. Perhaps what is scarier is that using that analogy, I have just been a passenger, leaving an uneasy question: am I still that passenger? Ten years from now will the same analogy apply? Is this how it is for everyone?
Make no mistake though. I am not unhappy, not at all. This last year has been hugely successful for me, somewhat of a personal revolution. The internet has allowed me to put together many of my creative and academic skills. This year I will continue to learn and adapt to the career I have found, putting down perhaps the most solid foundations for my future yet.
At 26 (soon to be 27) I have different dreams now, different ambitions. The goalposts have changed, and not because they have had to, but because I have wanted them to. Life and everything about being alive means something a lot different to me now. Money is no longer the gauge by which I measure my success or the success of anyone.
So much is taken for granted and only missed when it is gone, and that includes time itself. I don't want to just live life, I want to consume it. I want to blaze through it like a shooting star, knowing that in essence, that is all our lives are in time itself, just a moment that is over as quickly as it began.
As 2K approaches, I realize that I am not the person I thought I'd be. But would I change the chain of events so far? Not for a second. All the decisions I have made, be they good or bad, have made me the person I am today, and I like being me! Sure I could do with more money, but then if I had more money I'd only need even more, wouldn't I? For me, life is looking great right now, and I'd like to think that I can distance myself from the young 9-year-old Simon's predictions. After all, what did he know anyway? He was just a kid wondering about the flying cars and space station lives of a far-away future called the year 2000.