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SALT LAKE CITY – It was the year that wasn't supposed to be: the year 2000. You know? The year when all those extra zeros were supposed to reset the world — yet, tomorrow came, and the world woke up the next morning to eat their Cocoa Puffs.
That same year, there was a graduating class — "the class of 2000" — that churned out a group of newly minted adults. And this year, those adults turn 40.
That's right. Forty.
Forty is the decade that isn't 30, yet not quite 50. It is the age of reflection where you decide if you have "made it," or if it's time to make a change — perhaps, both.
But, it isn't just the age of 40 that is unique to this particular group of new millennials (who actually teeter between being classified as "Millennials" and "Generation X"). This group has had many ebbs and flows right out of the gate of adulthood from experiencing the immediate aftermath of the attacks on 9/11 in 2001, to the economic collapse of 2007-08, and now a global pandemic.
This generation was the last to experience what it was like to conduct research in an encyclopedia while the World Wide Web, or "Information Superhighway" as it was referred to, was in its infancy.
KSL.com took some time to talk to three men from the class of 2000, who turned 40 within days of each other, to see what it is really like on the other side of the hill.
Mixed reactions on turning 40
Skyler Miller, Cole Nelson and James Platt grew up together in Cedar City, in southern Utah, and graduated from Cedar High School together. Miller and Nelson had birthdays on Jan. 20, and Platt turned 40 on Jan 25.
For the past few decades, their mothers have planned birthday parties together. This year, their wives got the three together to commemorate the milestone, and each of the men had mixed feelings about turning 40.
Miller, who resembles Mr. Clean with his reflective bald head, is a teacher and coach at Hurricane High School. He joked that he never really left high school because of his career, and said that he has moments of wondering if he's made the difference he set out to make. He said that turning 40 was harder than he expected it would be.
"It was weird, you know? I have always wanted to be a head coach, and I had to step down this last season, and that was hard," Miller said. "I love teaching, and I have a great life with my wife and kids. Sometimes I don't feel like I am as successful as I wanted to be, and that's a hard thing to think about, and I've thought about that a lot lately."
Nelson, who is now sporting some white speckles amid his black whiskers, said that turning 30 was much more difficult for him than 40, but agreed that it has been a time of self-reflection and reevaluation. Platt, who now practices corporate law, was wearing a baseball cap during the interview and revealed no gray hairs (perhaps purposefully). He agreed that this year has caused him a lot of pause.
"Those first several years of building a career were very nose-to-the-ground, get-it-done years," Platt said. "Now that I am settled in my career, my kids are getting close to their teens, and I am realizing that I don't have that much more time with them. You spend all those years trying to build a career and life and miss out on a lot."
Nelson, who began working for Vivint 19 years ago, echoed Platt's sentiments, saying that he has gotten to the point where he's decided that taking a cut in pay is well worth spending more time with his children. Nelson also laughed as he reflected back on how much technology has changed.
From walkie-talkie to smartphone
While it is true that cellphones had already been invented by the year 2000, they were not widely used by the everyday human — let alone adults with less-than-minimum-wage-paying jobs. Nelson acknowledged this fact and reminisced about using walkie-talkies to communicate with fellow employees.
"When I was working for Vivint 18-19 years ago, we had walkie-talkies," Nelson laughed. "I didn't get my first cellphone till I was 23!"
The conversation digressed as the three friends brought up being able to dial only the last four digits of each other's phone numbers on their landline phones, rather than the full 10-digits to make a phone call. Then they reminisced about illegal activities like pirating music from Napster to burn on CDs. The three then went all old-man-dad-like, touting sentences that started out with, "In our day, we didn't have smartphones or social media … "
Miller talked about going to Southern Utah University as a first-year student and taking a library media class where he learned how to research things in books, with the class only having a sprinkling of internet instruction. All three agreed that technology has been the biggest change for better and for worse.
"Everyone nowadays has a platform," Nelson said. "I can't imagine having social media in high school and having everyone know what I was up to. Technology has changed everyone's life."
There isn't much that any of these 40-year-old men can do to turn back the clock, but they can embrace change and move forward. This is something that they have each come to realize is part of life. In fact, just eight years after the three left high school behind, they lost a dear friend of theirs too soon. Platt spoke about that as something that may happen more and more as the years go on.
"It's fun to look back at all the good memories, and laugh at the dumb ones, but there have also been hard times," Platt said. "We lost our friend Brian in 2008, and that was really hard. Things like that will become more common as time goes on. This is the time of life to look at what you have, like family and friends, and assess how many years we have left with them. I've realized now that it is time to slow life down a bit and focus on what's most important."
Advice from beyond the hill
With each graduating class, there are teachers who send those students on their way as they await the steady flow of new students year after year. One of those teachers is now Cedar High School Principal Terri Sanders.
Sanders recalled that at the time, she was in her fifth year teaching business and computer classes that may very well be obsolete today. While she said that she hadn't given much thought to the class of 2000 turning 40, she said she remembered what it was like to turn that age, and offered some advice.
"I think of my 40s as my golden years," she said. "There is so much at your fingertips. Embrace it and enjoy it. It's not scary, but is full of opportunities for growth. Look at the journey – there is so much joy in the journey. Just because you turn 40, it doesn't mean it's the end."
Some grey hairs, a bald head, wrinkles and mid-life crises may be the reality for many who represent the class of 2000 during their fourth decade of life, but if these three men are any indication of what's to come, it might be time to invest in some neon-colored shades. Oh, wait! Those were for another, much older generation.
If you are part of the class of 2000 (turning 40), let us know your thoughts on the "journey" in the comment section.