Not just the end of a year, but the end of a decade. As we say goodbye to the 2010s and usher in the 2020s, I’m pausing to reflect on the past ten years.
More highs than lows
We kicked off the 2010s with one of our biggest highlights, the birth of our second child, Toby, less than three weeks into the new decade. Kara followed a little over two years later, completing our family.
We entered the decade with just a two-year-old son. We’re finishing it with boys aged 12 and nearly ten, and a seven-year-old daughter. To say our house is now somewhat more full and noisy is a masterpiece of understatement.
Of course, it hasn’t all been highs. We were less than three months into the decade when I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a condition I have only really managed to get on top of in the past year or so thanks to a significant lifestyle change. Heather lost both her stepfather and her mum. We had our first experience of helping our children understand and cope with death.
But the positives have certainly outweighed the negatives. We’re lucky to have three healthy, intelligent and very different children. That presents its own challenges, but they have been good problems to have. And while we’re never going to trouble Millionaire’s Row, we’re comfortable enough. Our kids don’t lack for toys, holidays and the other trappings of modern life. (According to them, access to Xbox, wifi and WhatsApp are basic human rights. Colour me dubious on that one.)
The more things change, the more they stay the same
I was going to start this section by commenting how much my life has changed over the course of ten years. Of course, a lot is different – but a remarkable amount has stayed the same too.
For starters, I still haven’t fulfilled my ambition of publishing a book, despite a couple of abortive starts. (I’m not holding my breath on this one.)
Having moved companies four times in nine years early in my career, I’ve started and finished this decade with the same employer. In fact, 2020 will be my 15th year at the same company, although I’ve had four different jobs in that time. I’m now working as a social media manager – a role that didn’t even exist at the start of the decade.
We’re still living in the same house, albeit with two additional occupants. What once seemed positively palatial now feels not exactly cramped but certainly much busier than it once was.
Many of our friends are still the same too, although we now socialise with a lot more local people with similarly aged kids. And I’ve developed my own new network through blogging, as well as more recently reconnecting with old school-friends I hadn’t seen in 30 years.
Yes, there are plenty of things that are very different now to ten years ago. But my life is more stable now than at any other previous time in my life. It happens to all of us as we get older. And while there’s always a danger of stagnating, a little stability in our ever-changing world isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
A different me
While there has been a degree of both change and constancy in my life over the past decade, perhaps the biggest change has been in myself.
The 1970s and 1980s were my childhood and teenage years. The 1990s – basically, my twenties – were about rebuilding myself and my confidence after making such a mess of my university years. During the 2000s I advanced my career and learned to be comfortable in my own skin. And this decade has been about family more than career and growing through new experiences.
Blogging – an industry which has changed beyond all recognition during the 2010s – has been a big part of this. I’ve been recognised by my peers on several occasions and shortlisted for multiple awards (but never won one – boo!) I’ve performed one of my parody songs live on stage in front of 500 people. And I spent three years writing part-time for the website of the Metro newspaper, including one memorable (but actually not very good) piece that generated over 250,000 views.
As the commercial side of blogging and influencer marketing took off in the middle of the decade, I surfed that wave for a while. But over the past couple of years I’ve been happy to retreat back into writing for myself, not for other people. It’s my happy place. I write because I enjoy writing, no more, no less.
Most of all, though, I have a better handle on what it means to be me, what I enjoy and what I believe in. It has taken 40-odd years, but I finally know who I am – and, more importantly, who I’m not – and I’m more confident and less self-conscious about myself.
I’m a more socially responsible person than I ever used to be, whether that is doing my bit for the environment or making donations or other contributions to help the lives of those less privileged than me.
This past decade has definitely seen me develop as a parent too. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. But when I look at our kids I’m proud of both their achievements and their values. So for everything I’ve undoubtedly done wrong, I must also have done something right.
So, a decade on, I can look back and say that I’m a better, more rounded person and a better parent. I’ll be the first to admit I’m far from perfect – but I’m happier with myself at the end of 2019 than I was at the end of 2009. And that’s pretty good.
Isaac started secondary school. Toby discovered football and is now regularly playing for a local junior team. And Kara added martial arts to gymnastics.
I’m almost literally half the man I used to be. Since October last year, I’ve lost four stone in weight. I’m also the fittest I’ve ever been and I finally have my blood glucose levels under control.
And, despite being in the last year of my forties, I’m still making new friends (and rediscovering old ones).
It’s been a great year to end a good decade. What changes and new experiences will 2020 and the decade to come bring? I don’t know – but one way or another I’m sure it won’t be dull. Bring it on.