It’s not a traditionally round-number one, but my birthday today still stands out for its number: double 18 (you do the math). I have now been officially of age for exactly half of my life. Which, given my penchant for nostalgia and numbers, made my mind wander back to that wonderful year of 1998.
1998 was the year of the Monica Lewinsky affair and the peace agreement in Northern Ireland. It was the year the Great Belt Fixed Link opened in Denmark. We would learn the significance only later, but it was also the year Google was founded, and the first Harry Potter book published.
It was the year of the FIFA World Cup in France. I still remember the quarter-final between Denmark and Brazil (2-3), watching the match along with a huge crowd in Copenhagen’s Town Hall Square.
Back then, we were listening to Celine Dion, Aqua, Aerosmith, Shania Twain, and Backstreet Boys. We were treated to films such as Titanic, Armageddon, There’s Something About Mary, The Truman Show and The Big Lebowski. On TV (all broadcast, mind you), we enjoyed Friends and Frasier, and for some reason also X-Files and Jerry Springer.
In my life, coming of age meant that I could finally vote (which I did for the first time the following day) and get a credit card. Within a month of my birthday I would graduate high school AND get my driver’s licence. Oh, the freedom! Having finished school, borrowing my parents’ car to drive around the country and visit friends in a wonderful Danish summer.
1998 was the year in which I chose baptism and church membership, a decision which has shaped the course of my life, although perhaps less so in recent years.
1998 for me was also the beginning of a still-enduring passion for East Asia. Visiting Beijing on a class trip had a profound impact on me, leading me to later study a full term of Chinese Studies. Since then I have been fortunate to visit several other countries in the region, and every time it is with a joy of reunion.
Although I remember the year 1998 vividly and fondly, thinking back now it is also safe to say that a lot has happened since then. In the world, and in my life.
I no longer count as ‘young’, but I am satisfied with what I have achieved. My world has expanded – geographically, intellectually, spiritually and gastronomically. In 1998, for example, I still didn’t know how to cook, now a major interest and pastime. I had never had a girlfriend. In 2016 I am still myself, but arguably a wiser and more experienced version of me. I have a growing family of my own, own a house, and have a good job.
18 years is a long time, but I take comfort in the fact that 18 years from now I will still not yet be ‘old’, regardless of what my children will tell you. And if I get to experience as much in the next 18 years as in the last, I will count myself a lucky man indeed.