Reflections for the end of a decade

We’re ending another year, another decade and standing on the edge of the new. Usually the end of the year stresses me out. It reminds me that time is fleeting, you can’t get time back, not enough goals have been met, time was wasted, etc.

But this year is different. This end feels like an opportunity.

We have an opportunity to look back at more than one year to see what has unfolded. We have the opportunity to look back on a decade. That’s ten years’ worth of experiences, memories, noticings, decisions, and learnings.

This decade presented me with big life changes that required me to let go of a life I convinced myself I wanted and to trust where I was being led. Over the past three years in particular, I’ve found myself saying, “My life is nothing like I envisioned but it’s better than I could have ever imagined.”

Now, that’s not to say these past few years and this decade have been easy. Like any other decade, this one brought deep pain, hurt, and heartache. But, like any other decade, it also brought opportunities to grow, change, restore, and rebuild.

An invitation from an unlikely source

I listen to 88Nine Radio Milwaukee basically non-stop. I volunteer for the station, too, and it’s become a beautifully unexpected, important part of my life since I’ve moved back to Milwaukee.

Every Friday, 88Nine has a themed Flashback Friday request show. This week’s theme was, “How was your year?”, as expressed in a song from the 1990s or earlier. I text in a request most weeks, and my request this past Friday was:

At the risk of sounding self-involved, 2019 for me has been a year of self-discovery and making life happen. I’ve learned to say “no” to things, discovered what I want out of life and am making it happen, and I’ve learned that nobody can live this life but me. So, my song for 2019 is the Human Beinz “Nobody But Me.” Relatedly: I also re-watched The Office this year, and this song is in an episode, so there’s that, too.

As I listened to my favorite morning show host play the song, it made me think about more than this year but about this past decade. This Flashback Friday was more than a fun request but an opportunity to reflect.  

End-of-the-decade Mad Libs

I found myself asking myself some questions and answering them in a Mad Libs style:

  • Where did you start this decade?
  • How did you start this decade?
  • Where do you end it?
  • How do you end it?
I started this decade ____________. I am ending it __________. 

I share some of my reflections in an effort to be courageous and to share these words with whomever might need to hear them.

I started this decade as a PhD candidate unsure if I wanted to stay in academia. I am ending it as an assistant professor who is up for tenure, and I’m excited about the next chapter of my career.

I started this decade living in Lafayette, IN. I’m ending this decade back in my cherished hometown of Milwaukee, WI at my alma mater, Marquette University. I’m surprised by how much my mind, heart, and spirit needed to return to Milwaukee.

I started this decade exploring my spiritual life, wondering what it was and why it felt so important to me. I’m ending this decade training to become a spiritual director. I truly love learning how to help others care for their spiritual health. 

I started this decade engaged to be married. I was torn between meeting societal expectations of starting a family as a married person and following a deeply felt call to build something bigger than myself, which didn’t necessarily include having children. I’m ending this decade grateful to have ended a marriage that wasn’t right for me. Among other things, that decision helped me truly know what I want in a committed partnership.

I started this decade dreaming of research goals with no idea of how to make them actually happen. I’m ending this decade at the threshold of making them a reality with people who have walked into my life since 2016.

I started this decade with my beloved grandparents and my uncle Bill alive and well. I’m ending it without them. I’m ending it, too, with the knowledge that I can survive immense grief.

But why stop there?

Looking forward, I ask myself:

  • Where do you start this decade?
  • How do you start this decade?
  • Where do you want to end this decade?
  • How do you want to end this decade?

I start this decade with hope.

I start this decade with a sense of building momentum.

I start this decade with a little apprehension mixed with excitement and joy.

I start this decade with more trust in myself, in life, and in Loving Energy (that’s God for me) than I’ve ever felt before.

I start this decade with words I have always lived by, spoken by one of my role models:

“I’d rather regret the things I have done than regret the things I haven’t done.”

Lucille Ball
Photo of Lucille Ball

I want to end this decade trusting that life unfolded as it needed to.

I want to end this decade knowing that my life is nothing like I envisioned but is better than I could have ever imagined.

So, how do we get from here to there?

That’s a question I’ll take with me as we close out this decade and begin anew. Perhaps that’s a question to start each day with.

Questions to ponder

The questions above are one way to examine important shifts, changes, and movements in your life this decade. Here are a few more.

  • What and who do you bring with you into this next decade?
  • What are its/their emotional, mental, and spiritual weight?
  • Does it/do they serve you in a way that feels joyful, useful, or productive? Why?
  • What or who do you need to—and want to—leave behind in this decade?
  • What wounds are you holding onto?
  • What wounds have you inflicted on others that might need healing?
  • Are you entering into this next decade with inner freedom to be who you are and who you want to be?
  • If not, what’s stopping you? How do you get from here to there?

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