What Have You Learned in the Last Decade?

My kids are back in school this morning, and I’m finally taking a little time to think and reflect. Over the past few weeks I’ve read lots of social media posts where people recap what they accomplished over the last decade and oh my I’ve really, really enjoyed them — it’s amazing to see how much can happen in ten years! But so far I haven’t felt compelled to make one of my own.

Then, over the weekend I saw a post from Erin Ryan, a media host and writer, talking about what she’s learned in the last decade (instead of what she’s accomplished). I like that concept, and I really like what she had to say. Here are 3 of the things she’s learned:

“20 minutes is nothing; you can do just about anything if you set a timer for that long & do only that thing until it goes off. Reading, exercising (even if it’s just walking), power napping, meditating, vowing revenge…”

“Find a space where you aren’t performing or behaving as though you’re being watched. That’s hard now what with the self-surveillance of social media and the worldwide creeping evil of state surveillance. But find a space where you’re not performing and live there sometimes.”

“If you ever have the chance to take a long trip by yourself to a safe (for you) country that isn’t your home, take it. Even if you only do it once.”

You can read her whole 15-item list on Twitter.

It got me curious about what I myself have learned in the last decade, and it got me curious about what you’ve learned too. I’ll start and I hope you’ll add your hard-won wisdom in the comments. Here are 3 things I’ve learned in the last ten years.

-Let go of 95% of the education-related parenting stress. Your nearby local school is probably great, and it truly only takes a few parents to rally a community and make a school even better. Don’t assume a private/charter school is preferable. If you try your local school and your child isn’t thriving, don’t be alarmed, there are other good options. And there are solid, doable paths to excellent universities for anyone interested — including the kids who messed up in high school or are no good at standardized tests.

-While raising kids, and especially when they are very small, having the option of a truly flexible work schedule is extremely valuable, and at least for me personally, a bigger game-changer than a pay raise.

-Good content/art doesn’t happen easily. If you see a really pretty photo on Instagram, or read a funny tweet, or bookmark an excellent essay, or pin a gorgeous bedroom, or attend a memorable exhibit/event, then you can be sure there was much work, preparation, practice, thinking, and failed attempts in order to see that content/art come to fruition. There are no short cuts. And the work to create good content/art is worth it.

Now it’s your turn. I want to hear something (or many things) you learned over the last decade. Bits of wisdom? Maybe a new skill? And I’d also love to hear if you’ve seen another format for reflection that resonated with you. Have you made any lists or catalogues of your life reflecting the last ten years? Please feel free to share.

45 thoughts on “What Have You Learned in the Last Decade?”

  1. Right after I read this post on Instagram, I read a story in the LA Times morning email about a white LA mom who was appalled by the state of her local schools. She began a campaign to convince white parents to integrate their neighborhood schools – but then resist the urge to take over. Sadly, the article was her obituary, but I’m interested to see how that development plays out in the LA schools.

      1. I am so crushed by the death of Courtney Everts Mykytyn a week ago! Her podcast has been so valuable to me as I have navigated urban school choices, including now having my kids attend their own neighborhood school where they are among a handful of white kids. I totally recommend a listen for anyone interested in American education.

        I am so hopeful that her legacy, the organization Integrated Schools will continue to grow and thrive.

        1. Me too! I have just started listening to the podcast and she’s such a wise, thoughtful voice – I hate that we’ve lost her.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this! How heartbreaking that her life was cut short, but she did some important work with her life.

      And, Gabby, thank you for articulating the “first” thing you learned so concisely. I did do well in school and I also tested well, so it has taken a lot of energy for me not to freak out as I see my kids on a different path. You’ve provided a great environment for that lesson here. xox

  2. What I learned in the last decade…

    I work best in small chunks of time. This was survival when my family was young and busy and now it is the way I am most productive. I can grade papers, write emails, look up resources for clients, do reports, write notes, clean a small part of the house, start the laundry, walk with my dog, run small errands, answer a phone call in just 30 minutes at a time!
    I love eating early…again this comes from having 3 little ones and now I just like having a slower night after dinner is over.
    There is good in all kinds of schools. We have attended public, private, and charter schools and they all have something good.
    A truly flexible work schedule is imperative for my happiness. I love to work and I work a lot, I just need it to be flexible to match my family needs.
    I don’t have to be happy every day to be content and happy overall. It’s OK to have bad/sad days.
    I like to help people, even when it is hard and frustrating, but I like to keep trying.
    The key to communication is listening. I am still learning this….
    Sleep is the number one thing for my health.
    A really good apple is my favorite food.

    1. So much good stuff on your list! This one stood out to me personally:

      “I don’t have to be happy every day to be content and happy overall. It’s OK to have bad/sad days.”

    2. I liked your comment:

      I like to help people, even when it is hard and frustrating, but I like to keep trying.

      Sometimes I get so annoyed when I am trying to help at our school/church and I feel like no one else cares so it was good for me to see that others find helping out hard and frustrating at times too. Like you, I keep trying and think I do it for myself/my kids not for others, when I get fed up.

      I put a poster in our mudroom today – “Be the change you want to see in the world” That is the motto I want our family to live by for 2020.

  3. This past decade I’ve learned that I am the only one responsible for my happiness and I can choose (and it’s ok!) to be happy even if others around me are not. It doesn’t mean I’m being insensitive or disrespectful to them; it means I’m making an effort to live my best life and hopefully they will be able to realize and choose the same.

    1. In the past 10 years I have moved 5 times, have had 3 promotions, lost my mom to cancer, and lost my dad in an epically frightening manner that involved him on a trache in a nursing home for nine months. I also got married and had two kids. I have learned a lot. I have learned that my siblings are everything and the two with whom I am closest are key to my sanity. I learned that two parentsworking at an executive level didn’t work for us and while sometimes I miss it overall I am happier. I learned I need to exercise regularly to help me stay optimistic. I learned that I need to be careful about what content I consume. I learned how to be a great friend and a great manager to someone who is grieving. I learned that I need to work on being a friend for just regular life. Probably my biggest takeaway from the past 10 years is I absolutely know how I do and don’t want to die should tough decisions need to be made.

      1. Oh wow. What a decade you’ve had. And I 100% hear you on this:

        “I absolutely know how I do and don’t want to die should tough decisions need to be made.”

        Sending so much love.

  4. Leaving Facebook was good for my wellbeing and overall mental health. I left 5.5 years ago and never looked back, and it was extremely good.

    On this same note, it has been good for me to choose wisely what media formats I do spend time on. For me, I need to be aware that too much negative content isn’t worth the trade off. Get in, get the information I need to be educated about the day, and leave rather than scanning comments and or continue to stay in the rehash.

    Pencils, pens, brushes, and ink on paper are often more effective than keypads and or screens.

    Prayer is real and helps. For me, I find the need for this interaction with God is helpful at least three times a day for about ten minutes -or longer if need be. If one does not believe in God, then I would suggest that meditation, quiet reflection, or being in a limited stimulation space would be a great idea also.

    Becoming aware of *why* I need certain things and or “chase” money has been clarifying not just mentally, but for my emotional state, my home surroundings, my outlook on others and my community, and has helped me realize what I *really* want.

    Hurt people hurt people. Once I finally figured this out it helped me realize it isn’t me, it’s them, and if they are *stuck* in their hurt, I need to forgive them.

    And as Aristotle taught, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” It’s ok to question even those things we strongly believe in, belong to, invest in, and disagree with… when we listen to and or honestly investigate our own ideas and others, we often find we can find a common thread to hang onto or a middle ground to stand upon while amid the fray; or simply find none of us are 100% right or wrong.

    1. What wonderful things you’ve learned. Thanks for the beautiful comment. This one stood out to me:

      “Hurt people hurt people. Once I finally figured this out it helped me realize it isn’t me, it’s them, and if they are *stuck* in their hurt, I need to forgive them.”

      1. In the last ten years, I’ve broken my wrist, had bunion surgery, retired from my 12-year job as an English Language Development teacher in our local junior high school, planned and executed a major family reunion, traveled to foreign countries (some multiple times) welcomed nine new grandchildren to raise our current total to twelve, had a full hip replacement and two full knee replacements, lived through a kitchen renovation and a master bedroom suite addition to our house, lost my dad and my mother, watched my two brothers suffer from debilitating depression, and been hospitalized with a broken tibia on a trip to Egypt. I turn 70 next month and had never had a broken bone nor a hospital stay (apart from giving birth) in my first six decades. I really thought I was making it home free. What I’ve learned is that it’s never over ‘til it’s really over and that I am resilient. I can look back with gratitude for ALL of the experiences, AND, I can move forward—boldly now—without fear that something awful might happen. Because, some awful things HAVE happened and it turns out that I made it through them, older, wiser, and less afraid.

  5. My biggest lesson from the past 10 years is that I am worth time and attention and care. I learned this the hard way as I had 3 children and after my third, was diagnosed with a chronic illness (Crohn’s disease) which was at least partly triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, and my unwillingness to ask for help when I really needed it. I am much better now at prioritizing my health, sometimes over my kids and husband’s needs or wants, because I really have to stay as healthy as possible. I also want my 3 boys to learn from my example that women should not always put themselves last (a message that I think is fairly common in our culture).

    1. “I also want my 3 boys to learn from my example that women should not always put themselves last (a message that I think is fairly common in our culture).”

      This is so good. It’s so hard for women to learn.

  6. Three things I’ve learned in the last decade:

    1. If you want something to happen you need to plan it. You can’t just want it to happen. If you don’t plan it, no one will.

    1B. If you like to travel and have special interests/activities you like to do: pair them together. There is nothing like doing your favourite hobby while exploring a new place!

    2. Communication is everything. While it’s easy to recognize short comings of others, it is an ongoing challenge to improve myself.

    3. I suffer symptoms of PMS, it negatively affects my mood and self-talk, sometimes drastically. I track my cycles so I can help myself recognize when it could be PMS. Hindsight is 20/20.

    I love Erin’s “20 minutes is nothing”, I’ll adopt that!

  7. l. Aging and caring for aged parents is very difficult. I’ve learned to accept that there are certain things I do well and other things I need help doing. I cannot do it all.
    2. I require think time. It may look like I’m playing on my devices and part of my brain is, other parts are simmering the issues/tasks I need to deal with.
    3. Communicating with adult children is very different than communicating with children. They don’t always want my advice. Sometimes they just want me to listen. Asking what can I do to help you goes a long ways.
    4. Honor the introvert.
    5. Being a grandmother is the best job ever!

    1. I love this “there are certain things I do well and other things I need help doing.” I just realized that I also learned that this past decade, along with asking for help from those who excel in my areas of weakness.

  8. I’m learning to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I can ruminate over decisions forever, when an interesting, satisfying, safe option was probably right in front of me all along. I’m working on getting to the Doing phase and not wasting so much time in the Deciding phase.

  9. Love this. Three things I’ve learned:

    1. I have a voice. More often than not people thank me for saying out loud what they needed to hear or also wanted to say.

    2. We are not helpless when it comes to the injustice we see around us. We are each capable of doing something to make our communities better.

    3. We do not have to be healed to help. In fact, our own brokenness may be why we are capable at helping others in the way they need it most.

  10. This post made me smile because Erin Ryan is the niece of one of our closest friends back in Wisconsin. She’s so talented! (It’s such a small world–but I actually learned that back in my 20s, lol.)

    I’ve learned to always carry a book in my bag for those times when I’m waiting in line or picking up a kid. And that you should always leave a party when you’re still having fun. And to avoid “emotionally spewing” on people–like, if you show up late, don’t complain about the traffic or everything that went wrong. Just smile and jump in pleasantly to the conversation or do what needs to be done.

    1. What a fun connection! I’m so glad to know about Erin; so glad someone I follow on Twitter happened to share her list!

      And I love the wisdom of not “emotionally spewing” on people. Such a helpful way to think of it.

  11. I love all of the wisdom being shared here!

    10 years ago, I had young children that have now grown into young adults on the verge of launching out of the nest. I learned that some of the best gifts you can give your children are: 1. the ability to clearly and effectively communicate, even when the subject is unpleasant, 2. the space and freedom to fail and learn how to move forward anyway, and 3. teaching them to accept responsibility for their decisions.

    I’ve also learned to do more of what serves me personally and professionally and less of the stuff that doesn’t.

    I’ve survived heartbreaking loss and learned how to be still and really feel the presence of God in my life.

    I’ve learned that I like myself so much more as I approach 50 than I did approaching any other milestone age. I really know myself now and self-awareness of both faults and strengths is a good feeling!

    1. “I’ve learned that I like myself so much more as I approach 50 than I did approaching any other milestone age.”

      That is such a great thing to read. Thank you.

  12. The last 10 years have by far been the hardest of my life. I lost my grandmother, godmother and mother in a 2 year span. One year later, I almost lost my husband to a brain hemorrhage. It taught me who is really here for me when push comes to shove and that family isn’t always the ones that will be there. It taught me not to say ” call me/text me/email if I can be of any help” but to say ” I will be dropping dinner off tomorrow at 5 pm”

    I learned that life really is fleeting and that in the end, it is not the things we own or the hours we worked or the titles we have that matter… it is how we choose to spend that time. This has meant a lot more travel some to those destinations that I would get to “one day” and less things in my house. It has meant saying ‘no’ a lot more than I ever did before and realizing that no is a complete answer… no need to add why, how etc. Just no.

    I learned that I am the only person who will put me first and that being a mother does not equal being a martyr. It is ok to take time for myself. This has meant a solo travel to Christmas markets in Europe because no one else wants to go but I do so off I go!

    I have learned that I have no time or energy for passive aggressive people and that I do better when I do not engage with them.

    1. Oh my goodness. What an incredibly challenging decade. So much loss!

      I love reading that you’ve been able to learn how to take care of your needs — and I’m so glad you went to the Christmas Markets in Europe! Such a wonderful reason to take a trip.

  13. such an interesting post!

    10 years ago is when I started working out seriously and regularly, and started taking my diet seriously around 7-8 years ago. Now have such solid core strength and such great skin and hair….

    Taught me that you don’t need to seek overnight change. Even a 10-year timeline is just fine :)

      1. I started out REALLY not wanting to do so but being egged on by friends.

        Going to group classes made me realise I don’t have to be excellent or even good. I can be whimpering in the back of the class but just being there was enough. And after a while, I began to enjoy the aches and pains.

        You absolutely can do it. What’s amazing is that almost no one will congratulate you on it, no one will celebrate your better posture or your fewer aches or your newfound triceps. They’re too caught up in their own lives and living the results of NOT investing in health 10 years ago.

        So worth it! :D

  14. This past decade, I left a toxic job and found another job which is much better, but still has an element of toxicity. Because toxic people are everywhere. I gave birth to my two youngest children after 40. My youngest was diagnosed with autism and my husband was diagnosed with diabetes. My two oldest children became teenagers and most recently lost my beloved sister in law at age 40. I’ve learned that with God’s help, I am stronger than I thought possible. I’ve been exercising for the past year and it has been life changing. I feel better at now at 49 than I did at 40. I’ve learned to compartmentalize work and remember what is important. Despite being a teacher for 27 years, I only want it to have one sentence on my obituary.. Everything else should be about my family, my faith, my friends, travels, educational accomplishments, etc. I also learned that if you raise your kids right they can survive and thrive and succeed at an urban high school. Finally, some people that are raised to survive think differently than some people that are raised with pure love and that affects the way that they treat others. And the beauty in all of this is we who were loved can reach out to and pray for those who weren’t and show them by example how not to act. We can rise above everything!

  15. This is such a wonderful prompt. I’ve loved reading all of these comments.

    This decade I’ve learned to trust my instincts as a mother. I know what I’m doing and I’m good at it. I’ve learned that raising teenagers can be awesome as long as I keep the channel of communication open and safe. I’ve learned to care a lot less about what others think. I’ve learned that I can’t keep sweets in the house or I will eat them all. And, as we moved to England this year, I’ve learned to drive on the left side of the road, something I never thought I’d master!

  16. I have so, so loved reading the comments. I actually took some time when I read the prompt and really pondered on it. And over the course of the last decade, the two biggest realities I’ve discovered are:

    -My husband and I are not going to have biological kids. The reason isn’t clear, nor did it stop us from becoming parents, but that simple sentence involved a lot of effort and heartache and anger and resilience and leaning into one another, learning how to be gentle with each other’s hearts in the process of accepting that. And there is peace on the other side of it.

    -I can sing! Like, really sing (Who knew?!). And when I get up on stage (it’s at church, so I’m not like, a pop star or something! Ha!), I am this entirely other version of myself: bold, fearless, confident (I didn’t know this woman and her voice were inside of me all this time!). The metaphor of finding one’s voice and using it to help other people and hearing each other, etc., etc., has been absolutely life-changing for me in so many areas of my life since this lovely surprise. I’ve always been a private, cautious person, and singing forces you to Make Sound and be vulnerable to be Heard, and that has been a beautiful growing experience.

    P.S. I’m also stealing that 20 minutes thing. Yes.

  17. The last 10 years have been brutal but I have learned more than I could have imagined about life. From 28-38 I learned how to handle my anxiety and depression-running, meditating and medication. I learned that the MOST important thing to
    Do in life is to
    Show up! Over and over again. How did I work full time, raise kids, and get my masters degree? .I honestly just kept showing up. I’ve learned how to
    Support loved ones through life’s hardships without being able to fix it and most recently I learned how to really be brave. Grown up brave-like confronting a leader with strong organizational concerns. I hope the next 10 years
    Are less about learning and more about celebrating

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top