# What a Difference a Decade Makes

February 17, 2010

As I watched the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, I realized that this was the first time I could remember the decade changing from one to the next. After all, I was only five years old in 2000. I thought about all the transformations I had gone through during that time and was amazed at how far I’d come. Some additional analysis on my part indicated that the world had experienced some extraordinary changes right along with me.

In 2000, my formal education was just beginning. One of the first topics my teacher covered was the ABCs. This is a daunting task for any five-year-old and, at that time, I was much more interested in blocks and coloring than these foreign symbols. A decade later, I am now a published author and winner of several writing awards.

In 2000, I finally achieved what I thought would be the biggest mathematical advancement of my lifetime: I learned to count to 100. Little did I know, the fun would not end there. Ten years later, I now find myself seated five days a week in an honors algebra class, learning complex mathematics.

In 2000, I distinctly remember begging my kindergarten teacher for homework, wanting to be like the big kids. Ten years later, I am one of those big kids and would do anything to be back in that homework-free environment. In fact, I have been known to curse the Internet for allowing teachers to give us homework even on snow days!

In 2000, I sat in a bathtub, playing with my favorite toy: a submarine. The idea that people could live inside a boat under water seemed magical. In 2010, I sit in a physics lab, designing the same magical object I once played with in the tub. However, my submarine must run on nuclear power a few thousand feet below the ocean, while supporting a scientific research team and data-gathering vehicles for a few weeks without resurfacing. My toys have certainly gotten more complicated in the last decade!

In 2000, I faced the toughest challenge of my young life: how could I possibly put my head underwater where I could no longer breathe safely? It took months of my parents begging, demonstrating and bribing until I finally did it. Ten years later, I continue to stick my head under the water, but worry a lot less about breathing. As of 2009, I am now a certified SCUBA diver. My five-year-old self would have appreciated that oxygen-filled scuba tank even more than I do now!

In 2000, I nervously rode a bike with training wheels for the first time. Being so high off the ground and having to balance myself was scary. Stopping, a key part of this activity, always presented a challenge. Over the last decade, my balance and speed control have improved substantially, as I find myself skiing the steepest trails Colorado has to offer. I wish my little bike with training wheels could see me now!

In 2000, I sat in the back of my parents’ car, strapped tightly into a booster seat. I stared out the car window, fantasizing about being in command of such a prestigious vehicle. After a decade, I now sit freely in the front passenger seat, still staring out the window and fantasizing. However, now I am a mere two years away from learning how to drive a car myself.

In 2000, I had the blondest hair anywhere. It was so pin-straight that, after rumpling it, the hairs would always return back to their perfectly straight formation. After a decade, my hair is full of brown, wild curls that I wrestle with every day. I will never know what happened there!

In 2000, my mom always carried me upstairs to bed. Ten years later, I am now taller and stronger than my mom. Often we joke about the fact that I could probably carry her up to bed if I tried! After the laugh is over, tears well up in her eyes because these new roles will never change.

It’s no surprise that I changed a lot as I went from being a kindergartener to a teenager. However, it is interesting to note that the world changed at least as much as I did during the last decade.

In 2000, the United States had witnessed only one African American governor in its history. At that time, there had only been four African American senators, none of whom were currently serving. Ten years later, we have proudly elected our first African American president, Barack Obama.

In 2000, our world held an incredibly high number of people: 6 billion. Currently, the world’s population is about 6.8 billion people, a huge increase of 13% in ten years. This increase was equal to the number of people in the entire world in 1750.

In 2000, the United States federal government spent a whopping \$3.2 trillion, creating a deficit of over \$200 billion. Unfortunately, the government has learned little about spending money in the last decade. Federal spending doubled to \$6.4 trillion, creating a deficit of nearly \$1.3 trillion. Yet, after all this spending, thousands of Americans still go to bed hungry every night.

In 2000, social networking sites like Facebook did not exist. If you asked someone ten years ago to “Friend you on Facebook,” they would have looked at you like you were speaking gibberish. Yet, after only 5 years, Facebook has over 350 million active users around the globe.

In 2000, 415 million cell phones were purchased. Though this might seem like enough to cover a few teens needing a replacement phone after dropping their first one, the number more than doubled during the decade. Over 1 billion cell phones were purchased in 2009, with everyone from pre-teens to grandparents unable to survive without one.

In 2000, the average person might have thought an iPod was the newest type of legume that could be purchased at the local supermarket. One decade and about 250 million units sold worldwide, the iPod has become a household name as an irreplaceable music and gaming device.

In 2000, iTunes did not exist. That meant that when a person wanted to buy just one song from an artist, he was forced to purchase the entire album. Ten years later, iTunes has sold over six billion songs, many of which are single tracks off an album. The I- Tunes store has also expanded into other genres like free podcasts, movies, music videos, and TV shows, bringing entertainment directly to the user via the Internet.

In 2000, the world was aware of carbon dioxide gas (CO2) and its harmful effects on the environment. Many swore to improve the situation by lowering emissions. Despite these promises and the knowledge of the effects of CO2, emissions rose nearly 30% this decade.

In 2000, Tiger Woods was on a roll. He was revered for being the youngest golfer ever to complete a career Grand Slam and for becoming the first billion-dollar athlete through numerous product endorsements. Yet, after a decade, Tiger is faced with a self-imposed hiatus from golf, losing most of his sponsors, and possibly his family, because of his personal behavior.

In 2000, boarding an airplane was nothing to fret about. You could even bring a cigarette lighter aboard without question. After a decade of terrorist attacks beginning with the events of September 11, 2001, no one can board a plane without a thorough inspection, a full body scan, and removing one’s shoes. We now sometimes spend more time planning for and getting through security than traveling to our destination!

So, the last decade has been full of change and innovation for both me and the world. Yet, after reading the newspaper on the first day of the new decade, I realized something: In 2000, people across the world were dying every day because of starvation, poverty and unnecessary hatred. Ten years later, not much has changed. I guess some problems take a lot longer than a decade to fix.