A new decade is cause for reflection


As a new decade dawns, I was curious to look back at the past 10 years.

The passage of time becomes something you are more conscious of as you age. I wrote about this last month and it’s come up again as I wonder where the years have gone.

Have you taken stock of where you were and what you were thinking about in 2010?

You might try looking up statistics or news from the past decade. It will give you a snapshot of what has changed and what has remained constant.  Many of them aren’t as grim as you might think. Unemployment is down, women’s pay is up and fewer people are smoking. Technological leaps have been amazing and people are living longer, healthier lives.

Some of the cultural trends include Baby Shark, Hoverboards and the Ice Bucket Challenge. There was also the start of the Syrian conflict and a number of major weather events, such as the Haiti earthquake and U.S. hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Many of the events from 2010 and throughout the decade will sound familiar. In 2010, Arizona was pushing for tighter immigration regulation. Tensions were high in the Middle East. We had conflicts with China over Taiwan. The Supreme Court struck down restrictions on election campaign funding, opening the door to political action committees (PACS) that could throw millions at a favorite candidate. And Steve Jobs released the first iPad.

A decade ago, I had one child just beginning college and one who had graduated and decided to come home to work for a year before going to law school. We hadn’t yet grown accustomed to my working from home as I built a freelance business. Suddenly, we were back to having a child in the house, who wasn’t really a child anymore and who probably didn’t want to be at home.

The economy was a mess in 2010, and it would stay that way for several more years. It’s safe to say nobody wants to relive those days. But we survived. And, yes, child-at-home moved out and continued on to law school. (Child-at-college was glad to be away.)

Between 2010 and 2020, both children matured into adults, finished their degrees, found jobs and started their own households. We’ve added a daughter-in-law and a grandchild to our family and will soon add a son-in-law. One can’t ask for much more nachas!

As a parent, I feel pretty good about all that, but even with an empty nest, I still struggle to find enough time to devote to personal and professional goals.

I don’t really remember my specific goals and challenges from 2010. I’m not much of a new year’s resolution-maker. But in the first half of the decade, I would write and edit for a number of steady clients and learn to juggle deadlines in a way that was quite different from newspapers, where I had worked my entire career until then.

Finding time to read, exercise and keep up with my chosen profession – which is part of a vastly changing industry – has been frustrating. I have yet to find optimal balance in this empty-nest phase of life. Perhaps I never will. I consider “balance” one of the ongoing challenges in my life.

As I look back on each decade, that comes up as a theme. How can you read enough? How much exercise is enough? What kind of ongoing professional development do I need to keep fresh in an industry that is evolving?

The one constant for me in the last decade that I hope will continue has been my widely scattered but supportive family, for which I am ever grateful. Our extended family lives all across the country, but we routinely gather for holidays major and minor, often at my house. I am grateful to be able to host these gatherings and happy that so many family members participate. In 2030, the family table will have a very different makeup. For now, I will enjoy it just the way it is.