Happy Scary

Photo Credit: jenwikehuger via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jenwikehuger via Compfight cc

If you’ll recall, there was a little problem hanging over the late 1990’s.  It was called Y2K.   Someone realized that most computer hardware and software at the time used two-digit date codes and when these dates changed from 99 to 00 at midnight between December 31, 1999 and January 1, 2000, some very bad things MIGHT happen.  For example, there might software code that used a date for division purposes and divide by 0, which might be a problem.  Or there might be code that subtracted your birth year from the current year that might make you -68 years old, instead of 32, if you were born in say 1968.  No one really knew what would happen if all the code was left unconverted to four digit dates, so computer software and hardware companies spent bazillions of dollars in the late 90’s to update their code.

Party like it’s 1999

So there I was on December 31, 1999 in downtown Columbia, SC.  My employer at the time created websites, and we hosted most of these on the servers in our computer room.  I was responsible for the servers and said computer room.  Our plan for the evening was to hang out in the office until after midnight and make sure the world didn’t end.  We had already patched our servers with updated software, but there was still a big anticipation that something might happen.  I’m not sure anything had been hyped as much since Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vault in the ’80s.

Fortunately, the city of Columbia decided to have a family friendly New Year’s Eve party and shoot fireworks off well before midnight, like 8 or 9pm, so the youngsters could get to bed early.  This worked out well for me, since my son was almost two at the time.  We could see the fireworks, then Mom could take him home, and I’d walk the few blocks back to the office for the Y2K “party”.

Photo Credit: tlr3automaton via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: tlr3automaton via Compfight cc

We stood near the state capital building with friends and coworkers and their small kids, anticipating the show.  Finally, the first fireworks shot up and my son was briefly mesmerized by the bright colored lights.  Ever so briefly.  Then came the BOOM!  Suddenly, my son didn’t want to be there.  He buried his head in my chest and refused to watch the rest of the show.  There may have been some tears.  A friend’s little girl, slightly older than my son, looked over and saw her friend was upset.  “It’s OK, Mitles (her version of the name Miles),” she said .  “It’s happy scary.”  I thought that was one of the greatest explanations ever for something that is scary but thrilling at the same time.  And it came from a two year old.

And I feel fine

Photo Credit: Jasoon via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Jasoon via Compfight cc

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about happy scary and how we as adults should use that same thinking.  After all, adult problems often seem far worse than loud noise from fireworks, but perhaps they are not.  And maybe problems that don’t seem to have the happy part actually really do. For example, what if in January of 2015, your employer of the last ten years announced the closing of your facility in September 2015, putting you and 250 co-workers out of work?

That would be be scary, right? It would kinda create your own personal Y2K deadline, a Y16 if you will (let’s suppose there’s severance pay to get you from September to 2016).  On the surface, this scenario seems really bad.  Maybe at first, but perhaps you could take the happy scary approach and look at all the positives, despite the fear of all the unknowns.

  • Maybe you need a change? Embrace the change. Might as well.  It is coming.
  • Maybe you have a business idea that needed some prodding? Use the long exit runway to plan a take off for new ventures.
  • That creative fiction writing you’ve been wanting to do.  It is called a resume.
  • And if those don’t work, you could look at it this way: at least no one died.

Nothing to see here, folks

After the fireworks in 1999, we headed back to the office and hung out, waiting to see if the world would end.  As you know, it didn’t.  I don’t recall many problems at all from anywhere.  Was Y2K all a bunch of hoopla over nothing or was it smooth due to the years of preparation by thousands of programmers?  I don’t know, but I’m guessing it was a little bit of both.  Maybe it was a great example of hope for the best but prepare for the worst.  Maybe something to keep in mind if you experience a Y16.


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