Lots of you messaged me to say how much you enjoyed reading the lessons of the last 10 years in Part One. There are some absolute corkers in Part Two so I’m going to shut up and let them speak for themselves…

Steph Douglas founder of thoughtful gift company Don’t Buy Her Flowers

I’ve learned that marriage is really hard. We got married 11 years ago and at the time, I’d met my dreamboat. I saw getting married as the start but also the end – like the meeting someone and deciding to get married was the hard bit. After that it would be an upward curve to further happiness, growing old together, sharing more, getting better and better. OR it all goes wrong and you’d divorce. But it was black and white. Success or failure.
I think it’s taken me until the last couple of years, three kids in, to be ok that marriage isn’t a straight line. It’s up and down, sometimes we’re in sync and other times we’re disconnected and no number of date nights or ‘we need to talk about things’ is going to help. During those times we feel distant or clash over and over. The same whispered (or raging) rows, the same frustrations, moving silently around the house as if the other isn’t there. Wishing they weren’t. Having children bought out the worst in both of us – the exhaustion, unable to find time for anything – ourselves or each other. And then other times, waking in the night and reaching a hand out to find his, feeling my heart swell at a memory of him, of us, and messaging just to say ‘I love you. We’re doing ok’. Being kind to each other, making each other’s day easier out of love, laughing about something until we cry, feeling so connected we know what each other thinks without a word said. Knowing that when the shit really hits the fan, we’re our biggest champions – there’s no one else I’d rather do this with. Marriage is all of these things, and lots in between. And that’s ok.    @steph_dontbuyherflowers @dontbuyherflowers

Alex Mees father of two; feminist

The most important thing I have learnt this decade – because it has in turn enabled me to learn many more things – is to seek out others whose experience and perspective I can learn from. As a straight, white, middle class, able-bodied, cis man, I learn most by listening to others who don’t have the same privilege as me.

Oh, the other thing I’ve learnt – as someone who grew up north of the river is that South London > North London. @al132

Tamu Thomas life coach; speaker; podcaster; writer; founder of health and wellness brand Three Sixty

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell, my blessing season this in thee! Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82 – William Shakespeare. This quote from Hamlet has so much resonance for me in my current season. When read from a place of lack, not-enough, and martyrdom this way of being can be triggering, especially for mothers. However, I am finding that the truer I am to myself the more space I have to mother my child as she is and see people as they are from a place of growing acceptance. Whilst this has its own mammoth share of discomfort it is way more nourishing than projecting my unmet needs onto others then people pleasing manipulation in the hope that I get a response that temporarily ameliorates my unmet need. This for me is an unlimited source of everyday joy. @livethreesixty

Susie happy human; invisible disability; podcaster

This decade has chiefly taught me the same lesson, over and over (it could be that I’m a slow learner). I am disabled following a spinal injury, which temporarily paralysed me just over a decade ago and permanently left me with mobility problems. At the time it was traumatising, and over time challenging – but it serves to teach me one central lesson over and over. Surgeons measure improvements from spinal surgery in years rather than days, weeks or even months. I have discovered that some things are final: I will never fully recover, be able to walk as far as I want again, be able to feel my legs clearly, or experience a day without pain. But even so – healing is possible. It isn’t linear – it isn’t as simple as “getting better” – but it is still possible. Healing is adjusting, accepting, altering perspective, and finding the beauty and peace in lessons no matter how challenging.  It is accessible for everyone, no matter the wound, it simply requires some patience.     @susiebluesyy

Mia mum; blogger; mental health advocate

I think my biggest lesson has been to listen. It can be so hard to really listen. Often the things that make us most uncomfortable are the most important things to hear. It’s not easy, and I still definitely don’t always get it right. But learning takes time and mistakes are part of the process. So long as you’re trying and you’re not hurting anybody – you’re doing ok.
I’ve also learnt to be true to myself; online and in real life. Not everybody will like it or want to be part of that. But that’s ok. It links back to above – the people who don’t want to hear it aren’t always ready yet.
And if you’re in need of a lesson to take into 2020 – it’s Dioralyte before bed if you’ve had more than 3 glasses of wine. Trust me.     @cigarettesandcalpol

Ali Millar writer

I find Christmas a strange time of year. Maybe everyone does. This year more than most it’s been a time of reflection for me, maybe it’s the new decade, maybe it’s that I’m finishing final edits of my memoir. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a cult, and we didn’t celebrate Christmas. We weren’t even allowed to acknowledge it was happening. Christmas was, still can be, difficult.

I’ve spent the last ten years trying to properly extract myself from everything I was taught and the influence that had on me. The decade started with me celebrating the incoming years with new friends. I’d been told new year was pagan. I mixed gin with champagne. I watched the snow fall white against the firework sky. It felt new. It felt good. It was the light before the dark. 

I lost my mother to the cult. I lost everyone I used to know. The weight of loss almost became too much. I had three more children. I became submerged in motherhood. Words ran away for a while, I felt like I’d had my tongue cut out. And then I found my way back to the page, to writing things down and as I did, I realised if the last ten years have taught me anything at all, they’ve taught me everything changes. All is change. This is the only thing that’s real for me, the only thing I can believe in now. 

The good will ebb, the bad will flow. It’s a comfort when things are hard, a reminder to hold onto the good when it’s there. It helps to know this on this Christmas morning as I open the blinds to a sunny, crisp day and I hear the sounds of my children playing below me, the smell of yesterday’s coffee from a cup I forgot to clear on the dresser, the sound of the old news chewed over and spat out on the radio, this will be consigned to half if ever remembered things. The dread on waking, that too will ease, the once seemingly ceaseless emptiness was not ceaseless at all, but temporary; all is flux, life is change, is up and down. I have no certainties for the next ten years, but I go into them equipped with the knowledge that they will be and they will pass and now is now and is all we ever really have, and so it is, onwards, into what comes next.  @ali_miller_writes

Lauren Currie OBE speaker; confidence coach; feminist; entrepreneur

Learning to sit with discomfort is key to progression. Human beings have evolved to seek certainty. We like answers, familiarity and dependability. But I believe being comfortable with not knowing unlocks potential at a scale we can’t imagine. When you are taking genuine risks you cannot know what will come next. The skill I’ve been learning to act upon for the last ten years (and when I look at people who inspire me, they all have this ability in common) is to be comfortable with not knowing what tomorrow will bring.

Learning is all there is. Maya Angelou says it better than I ever will “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. I work and learn in the open. I give away everything I know and I spend hours every week writing and speaking about what I’ve learned. This isn’t because I think myself to be particularly interesting, it’s because learning and unlearning is the only way we continue to know better and then do better. Things I’ve learned about in the open; feminism, building businesses and motherhood. Beliefs I’m unlearning in the open; people in power have earned the right to be there, meritocracy exists and feelings guide good decisions.

Most people are living at half-mast, waiting and afraid. I’ve learned to connect with my strengths. I’m now learning how to talk about my powers loudly and proudly. I’m learning this by teaching others how to do the same. I’m very good at making people feel brave. As a result of this, I’ve become a story keeper for many. People tell me stories about their fears, how they see themselves and their value. Most of us are living in a waiting room; waiting for something we don’t know will ever come until we take the step we would take if we weren’t afraid anymore. There are millions of authors and philosophers who’ve explored self-belief in a depth I haven’t reached but I do know that I don’t live in the waiting room. I act. It is this ability to take action that I credit my best work and learnings to. Learning how to act and leave the waiting room will only come from doing. Doing not talking. This is how we raise ourselves to full mast.  @redjotter @weareletterloveshop