I saw a little quip on social media that since I was born in the 1980s, I have lived in four different decades, two different centuries, and two different millennia – all before hitting 40 years old. I am of the Oregon Trail generation that had an analog childhood with a digital adulthood. It still feels like the the world changes at lightning speed.
At the end of the year, I usually pause and reflect on what has transpired over the previous 12 months, but on this last day of the decade it feels appropriate to look back over the past decade as well.
At the beginning of 2010, we were living in a condo in Madison, Wisconsin. By the end of the decade, we had moved to Illinois, rented a house and an apartment before buying our current home. We ended up renting out the condo for 7 years before we were able to sell it. And this year we added an addition to our home, confirming that we intend to stay here long-term.
At the beginning of the decade, we had a three-month-old son. By the end of the decade, we had five children: a 10-year-old, a 7-year-old, a 2-year-old, and two cherished babies that we lost. We have gone through nannies, day care, summer camp, and elementary school.
At the beginning of the decade, I was working from home for a software company and Ger was working as a programmer for a student loan company. By the end of the decade, I had the same employer but had moved into an executive role. Ger took a job at a consulting firm (the reason we moved to Illinois) and now works for the same employer that I have, also now working from home.
At the beginning of the decade, I had just started to form friendships with friends that I had met in Madison who were also new moms. By the end of the decade, I had made many new friends after relocating – many of whom are very dear to me. I let go of friendships that were difficult. I used to occasionally make phone calls to catch up with people, and now it is all done via text message and Messenger – constantly in contact with the people I care about.
At the start of this decade I barely had a smart phone, and now I have 11 Alexa devices in my house. An iPod used to be my music source, and now those are obsolete but we also have added a record player to our home. At the beginning of the decade, I had Facebook, and by the end of the decade I also have Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. I used to watch live tv and listen to the radio with commercials. Now I only consume media “on demand” and ad-free. I remember that I used to like shopping – browsing – in my “spare time” but now I do a majority of shopping from my phone and have everything from meals to toilet paper delivered.
I cheered after the Presidential election in 2012 and cried in 2016. I marched for teachers’ unions in Wisconsin, and against gun violence, and (in spirit) for women. I cried when children were killed in Newtown, when children were suffering as refugees in Syria, and when children were separated from their parents at the border in Mexico. My gay uncles were able to get legally married. I used to absorb the news, but now I have to take it in small doses.
At the beginning of the decade I was younger. I had more time and I had more energy, but now looking back I’m not entirely sure what I did with my time. I was more wide-eyed. The behaviors of other people bothered me a lot more. I wore a lot of high-heeled shoes. Now I live in active wear and putting on makeup is a rarity. I now have six tattoos.
At the beginning of the decade, I blogged constantly about life with my infant son, a blog I took down just in the past year in the interest of keeping my children’s lives more private as they get older. I started this blog after my daughter died in 2015, still finding the need to write since grief is something I will always carry. I started and have maintained a consistent journaling habit, and have put some of my writing out into the world on other sites.
At the beginning of the decade, I drank a lot of coffee, rarely exercised, and was naturally thin. By the end of the decade, I am down to one cup of coffee per day, still don’t have a good exercise routine, and enjoy wine. I have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, am in a high-risk category for breast cancer because my sister had breast cancer in her 20s, found out that I am allergic to Ambien, and took anti-depressants for awhile. I still break out in hives occasionally, though not as much as I did when I was younger.
At the beginning of the decade, I struggled to get my husband to understand what it meant to share in the parenting workload. It was exacerbated when our second son was born. I was often frustrated and angry that he could ignore my pleas for help and was oblivious to the work I was doing. Flash forward many years and arguments later, we go to marriage therapy as a commitment to working on improving our relationship. We have a routine that works and support each other.
My husband’s big motivator is always “improvement” – he wants to see progress of some kind. While his is more focused on tangible change (money, jobs, accomplishments), I understand that desire for wanting thing to be “better.” Better is relative, since I do not use the same measuring stick that he does, but looking back over the past decade, I can see the changes in our lives. While not the most flattering, as I look back over the past decade, a word that jumps out at me to describe our family is “decisive” – we make decisions, we plan, and we don’t look back.
After reading back through what I wrote at the end of last year, I ended with “may 2019 be a year of routine.” To that I now think “YES!” I never really set firm resolutions for myself in a new year, but that one somehow worked itself out. I spent much of 2018 focusing on other people and not finding time for myself. But I found that the more routine I have, the more in control of my time I feel. It works against me when I try to get my kids to do something outside of our routine, but for the most part it helps.
In 2019, I formed a consistent habit of waking up at 5:30 and cherishing the time to myself. I drink a cup of coffee, write in my journal, read something. While my 7-year-old usually appears by my side at 6:00 wanting breakfast, the rest of the family doesn’t wake until nearly 7:00, leaving time I can capture completely for myself. As a perfect example: writing this reflection on the past year and decade.
Here’s to what comes next. The next decade will bring our kids entering middle school, high school, and college. We want to travel more, and visit countries outside of the United States. In the more immediate year, I can still see things I would like to change – new challenges, better care for my body, focusing more on writing.
May 2020 be a year of “clear vision.” Clarity.