Taking stock

So, here we are. December 31st, 2009. The last day of the Noughties. In a few hours’ time we will say farewell to the old decade and hello to the new one.

It should somehow feel like a day of great importance: a momentous day, a noteworthy day. After all, the last time we stepped over the threshold into a new decade, everyone was wondering whether computer systems were going to crash, planes were going to drop out of the sky and the very heartbeat of our modern world was going to suddenly stop. (What an anticlimax that turned out to be.)

Instead, today seems not unlike many other days – unexceptional. Cold and grey; a normal working day (for those people not extending their Christmas holidays); a day when ordinary people do ordinary things.

I suppose, at least, it is a time for a moment’s retrospection. For the past couple of weeks, certainly, newspapers and TV programmes have been busily producing their ‘top’ and ‘best of’ lists: our favourite TV programmes of the decade, the greatest songs, the top sporting moments, the best new gadgets.

Making a list comprising a round number of anythings feels a bit too much like hard work, so I’ll settle for reflecting on how life chez Liew has changed over the past ten years.

Obvious changes first.

On New Year’s Eve 1999, Heather and I were living in our first house in Oxford. Ten years on, we have moved twice, first to Lane End, and from there to our current house in Thatcham. Of course, there are now three of us – Isaac turned two earlier this month – and our second child is now only a matter of days away.

I’ve worked for four different companies during the decade, having left Royal Mail in late 2000 and ending up at 3M (since mid-2005), via stops at Tesco and BBC Worldwide. I’ve now been at 3M for four-and-a-half years, my longest tenure at any of the five businesses I have worked for. And while I don’t necessarily feel that this is my final resting place, I certainly don’t have quite the same itchy feet I did ten – or even five – years ago.

Heather and I have had some great holidays too – travel has always been important to us both. We have whiled away hours lying on a beach in Jamaica or St Lucia; covered thousands of miles in a car in California (my all-time favourite holiday), New Zealand and Canada; stood atop the Great Wall of China, the Empire State Building and the Grand Canyon; marvelled at magnificent architecture and/or art works in Bangkok, Paris, Florence and Barcelona – to name but a handful. It’s been a great few years. Hopefully we will take the new arrival to see his extended family in Malaysia and Australia in 2010.

What else? We’ve owned six cars between us during the Noughties, ranging from our little Citroen Saxo (the first car we ever bought) to my old Audi TT. By my count, on my own I’ve also accumulated nine mobile phones, three Playstations, two iPods and a partridge in a pear tree during the decade, not to mention the three home PCs, three digital cameras and three Sky satellite receivers we own or have owned between us. (Sign of the times, eh?)

But all that is a collection of either material goods or experiences. How have I changed as a person over the past ten years?

I’d like to come up with some staggering insight into my personal development here, but the fact is, after 39 years on this mortal coil, I’m just an older – and hopefully slightly wiser – of the 29-year-old who saw in the new millennium. I suspect that anyone who hadn’t seen me for ten years would say that I haven’t changed much. A few grey hairs and a lot more pounds, certainly. But fundamentally I’m still the same quiet, self-conscious, socially awkward person I’ve always been, albeit one who is a little more sure of his place in the world after an additional ten years’ life and career experience. I’m a bit less patient than I was and quite a bit more irascible than I used to be. (I am, in fact, turning into a bit of a grumpy old man.) And I’m certainly starting to feel both my age and my mortality, a combination of minor health issues and the death this year of one of my best friends from university, Sam Best-Shaw.

If one thing has changed me more than anything else, it has been becoming a father. I’m definitely less self-absorbed and more responsible than I used to be, and I have learned to see things through a child’s eyes. People say that having children allows you to experience a second childhood yourself, and I have certainly found that to be true. For all the sacrifices we have made, all the sleepless nights we have had, all the worries and doubts, it has been worth the trouble many times over.

So that’s it. No stunning insights, a minimum of cod psychology. Ten years of my life which have been more about evolution than revolution; not in a bad way, though. I’m happy, and that’s more than enough for me.

Anyhow, Happy New Year, everyone, and may 2010 and the new decade bring you good cheer and fortune.