I tried to write an introduction to this that would justify its next-level-navel-gazing about the end of the decade. The truth is I’m just over-invested in the idea that being born in a year ending in 0 means that as the calendar rolls into a new decade, so do I (at the end of 2020 I turn 40).
Some part of me clearly feels that this combination of calendar dates gives me more than the average right to introspection. On a whim, I messaged a bunch of people to ask them to share the biggest lesson they have learned in the last 10 years…
These are people who I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with thanks to the wonders of the internet. They have different interests, careers and lives, they face different challenges. What they have in common is that they share qualities of thoughtfulness, intelligence, integrity and empathy. This year I learned these are the qualities I most value in the people around me; they are the ones I do my best to live up to myself.
I loved reading these lessons. I found resonance in some; reason for celebration in others; and there is goodness and growth in all of them. I hope you enjoy them too.
Dr Emma Svanberg Clinical Psychologist; co-founder of @birthbetter
I’ve learned that I’ll never (and should never) stop learning. A decade ago I was a fairly newly qualified psychologist and felt so sure that I would be the one to help the people who crossed my path. With my lovely diagrams and my fresh knowledge of models and theories. A decade later, and having spoken to hundreds of people about their experience, I am so much more aware of how little I know and how small my frame of reference is. The more I learn, the more I recognise the powerful individual, social, environmental and historical forces that influence us all – and the more I then have to learn. But I have also learned that the people I meet are my greatest teachers, and continue to feel just as honoured as I did a decade ago when they invite me into their lives. @mumologist
Clemmie Telford Creative Director and Strategist; creator of ‘Honestly Podcast’; curator of lists
I spent my 20’s thinking about me. This decade I turned 30 and have spent far more time thinking about ‘me’ in relation to the communities I live in (friends, family, local, national, global). As part of that I have learned that every person has a story worth hearing. Every person you meet today will be going through something right now; could be small, could be enormous. As such we should do two things: show them kindness and compassion, and also be open to listening to them. Doesn’t mean we have to like them or agree with every word they say. But we do have to be prepared to give them space. Why? Because, when we do that; share stories and try to empathise and learn from each other’s experiences, magic things happen.
I also learned that CousCous is made from durum wheat and flour which means it is essentially tiny balls of pasta. @clemmie_telford
Lousie McGivern Glaswegian mum in Bulgaria
I have learned that ultimately I can only affect what goes on in my circle. I look at what’s going on in society today (across the globe) and I don’t understand it, I’m trying to but struggling. All I can do is influence my world by being true to my own socialist upbringing, morals and lived experiences and pass those on to my own kids with the hope that they will affect change within their circles when the time comes.
Dora Botta Social and environmental justice activist
The last decade has taught me that being an environmentalist is not just speaking up about deforestation, fossil fuel, plastic and the air pollution but it is about the people. I used to care more about saving the natural world but I have realised that overall, the planet doesn’t need saving, we do. And this must include people who are mistreated and oppressed. Our natural world will recover but only if we raise up against our current white supremacist system which is racist and bias. We, the people, have to change our behaviours and become true allies to those who are being harmed and silenced: the tribes of the Amazon whose ancient forests are being burned for capitalist gains; people of colour around the world; the marginalised who always have to fight 3 times as hard to have their voice heard. We can’t save humanity unless we learn to accept and value our differences rather than approaching them with fear and hatred. It is privilege to fight, to speak up, to drive change so there is no time to waste it, we must acknowledge it and do whatever it takes. It is time for our ego to take a back seat. Climate change is real. Accept it and get to work. @dora_botta_
Cee Olaleye Writer, mother, wife; mad running man skills
This life is way too short to continually prioritise someone else’s happiness. Pleasing others at the expense of myself is never ever a good idea. I entered this decade with one child and am leaving with two. If I have successfully instilled this learning into both of them by 31 Dec, I will leave 2019 a happy woman.
Naomi Tagg Not just a mama; blogger @countdowntocivvystreet
Rest is the only way to sustain productivity. There is joy in mediocrity.
Being truly authentic with yourself is a battle worth pursuing.
Understanding is important but listening is imperative.
Stephanie Clarke Runner, reader, mother, teacher
I have a tattoo on my upper inner arm – it’s of an open birdcage. When people ask about it, they assume that it represents my liberty – that I’m the unseen bird who has flown off, free from whatever time/experience had me previously trapped. But in fact, it’s the opposite.
I spent my twenties – that ENTIRE decade – worrying about not drinking enough, not smoking enough, not having enough one-night stands, not often enough dropping everything for last minute, late night parties. I had an image of what it was to be young, single and living in London but I wasn’t living up to it because deep down, I only really wanted movie nights with my friends and a nice boyfriend. It’s strange now to look back and realise how miserable and anxiety-ridden I was because I wasn’t what I thought I should be, because my life was actually quite ordinary.
When I turned 30, I breathed a sigh of relief, it seemed for some reason that I was finally grown up enough to admit who I was, to say no to the shit I would usually have felt I had to do, and to look after myself. I’m 35 now, I’m married, I have children and a ‘sensible’ job; everything about my life is what a lot of people – or maybe a lot of younger people – would deem a trap, a cage, but for me, it’s everything I didn’t admit I wanted. That cage on my upper inner arm is me; it is familiar, it is security, it is home. I’m not free of previous worry and anxiety because I flew away, but rather because I opened up and let them go. @seppicino
Helen Cruikshank Disabled, Scottish, Gay mum
The most important thing I have learned this decade is to be firm with my boundaries. I’ve had to learn that even if abuse happened to me as a child, the person had to be held accountable. There should be no more second chances, enough has to be enough, and myself and others had to take a stand against our abuser, no matter how hard that was.
Self-preservation is important, in fact it is probably the most important thing for us as humans. Even when other people think things should be left in the past, it’s impossible to move on until that past is dealt with. In essence, boundaries and self-preservation have to be paramount. @helen.cruikshank
Laura Hesketh Mixed race; BA (Hons) Black Studies student
The most important thing I’ve learned this decade is that coming together with people of conscience and standing up for what’s right brings me joy like no other.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through the lessons learned by these excellent humans in the last 10 years. Tomorrow I will be sharing Part Two (I wasn’t expecting so many people to say yes and once I’d read them all there was no way I was leaving anyone out).
Thanks for taking the time to read, I hope you come back for more tomorrow, and HAPPY. NEW. DECADE!