Y2K Ruined New Years

December 31st, 1999 was the last time I got really excited about a new year. Sure, I’ve been to some great parties, including being the best man at a fake wedding, seen some amazing concerts, drank rivers of free champagne, and even woken up in a hot spring in a red rock canyon somewhere in the northwestern corner of South Africa. But in the end, even the most epic parties and the highest flying adventures just can’t hold a candle to December 31st, 1999.

It wasn’t that I did anything particularly memorable. In fact, I’m pretty sure I just walked down to Greenfield Community League and watched mediocre fireworks with my parents. Instead, it was the fact that on December 31st, 1999, there was genuine concern that the stroke of midnight might bring the start of some calamitous disaster. Planes might start falling from the sky, bank accounts would disappear, cars would simply shut down mid lane-change and the world would fall into generic chaos as the Y2K bug brought our technological hubris crashing to the ground. At 13 years old, this was the first time that I genuinely had to contemplate the idea of collapse. Sure, it was a little scary, but more than that, something about the idea of our world crashing to the ground was exciting.

Maybe it was the fact that at 13, I was really coming into my own as the fat, uncool kid at school. With years of drudgery through junior high and high school ahead of me, Y2K meant possibility. Maybe my school would erase all our records? Maybe lawlessness would rule the streets and we would be plunged into a science fiction future where I would rise as an unlikely hero? Maybe a plane would just fall from the sky and crush the homes of the worst bullies at my school. Possibility reigned supreme.

Unfortunately, the clocks struck midnight, then 12:01 and the world kept turning. No falling airplanes, no financial collapse, not even a glitch on our old Hewlett Packard personal computer. School still started a few days later and, from that moment, I started to care less and less about New Years.

For me, that night in 1999 and the next morning in the year 2000 marked the end of certain kind of possibility. A new year would no longer bring fundamental changes, and I couldn’t put my faith in promises that outside forces, be they technological or mystical, would transform our society. That New Years Eve birthed, in equal parts, the idea that I would have to work to change things and a deep cynicism that change may never really happen.

Since that day, those two forces have been waging a war inside my head, and going into 2017, I can’t help but feel like, for the first time, cynicism might really be winning. This year, even faking my way through bullshit bullshit resolutions that I wont keep and pretending that nursing a holiday hangover is a good time to set life goals seem harder than usual.

Maybe it’s just that going into 2017 feels dark. It feels like things need to get worse before they get better, and while that’s a bit depressing, it also feels good to put that into words. It feels good because maybe admitting that is the first step towards getting back to a place where possibility reigns supreme. The first step towards a personal Y2K.

What does a personal Y2K look like? I’m not really sure yet, but it starts from a blank a slate. It starts from admitting some basic things and asking some pretty basic questions, like what do I actually want?

Well, to paraphrase semi-rad.com’s Brendan Leonard , I want to climb mountains and I want to drink more coffee. Does it really need to be more complicated than that?


Cameron Fenton