18 years ago, you could have found me daydreaming about the end of the world.
Excuse the little girl I was, she didn’t realize just how bad things could have gotten. Instead, she was totally caught up in the idea that the world as we know it could completely change in an instance. For those who weren’t old enough to remember, Y2K was the predicted tech apocalypse we were warned about the entire year of 1999. The theory was that computers would become useless because of a programming error caused by the date shift from 99 to 00.
When nothing happened, I was devastated. It fundamentally changed my understanding of the world. Since then, I’ve fiercely questioned anyone making extreme claims in either direction. No politician is going to fix all of our problems. No natural disaster will be so great that we won’t rebuild. And I promise, even if the worst case scenario happens for you at work, or in love, you’ll rebound.
Y2K was my inoculation against mass media fear-mongering. No other New Years has come close to having as big of an impact on me. Lost in the avalanche of “new year, new me” memes and advertisements for gyms, are some lessons we can take away from this annual event that might actually benefit us.
For starters, you can’t wait for a sign to make a positive change; you can’t wait for the end of the world. By then it’s too late. I had a rough childhood, and looking back, I can see now that I hoped for something big to happen because I felt helpless. The most powerful forces in our lives are the ones we become blind to. They are the daily routines that are set in stone. If you want to make a change, that is where to do it. Throwing a rock in the river on the first day of the year will make a splash but it won’t build a dam. Quickly the ripples fade, and the current goes on its way.
It’s in this spirit that our lives are forged. Our moments of glory and love are built upon the foundation of the daily mundane choices we make. Big dreams require an untold number of baby steps. Little Chelly thought a major shakeup could bring her dreams to her as if they would fall into place. But, if we don’t put in the daily baby steps, we won’t be ready when our “perfect” moment happens.
We live in an age of sensationalism. Everything is the most this, and the worst that. Step back, breathe, and find a perspective that helps you grow. Y2K was a major bust just like every other end of times prophecy. Still, there were important lessons buried in each headline. At the very core of the Y2K phenomenon was the very real and very human fear over the growing role of technology in our lives. Which, isn’t a new fear. With each jump in technology, there are fears of it destroying our way of life.
So often we indulge in believing that this time is special. That right now, while we are alive is fundamentally different than any other time. But it isn’t. Change isn’t a single presidency or a new generation. It’s slow, incremental, and so subtle that we take it for granted. The roots of Y2K can be found in the industrial revolution when cities began to grow and farmers turned into factory workers. The past didn’t exist for us, we exist because of the past. So when you are being told that the end of the world is upon us and that all hope is lost, remember that the world is bigger than just today.