a decade of change

The last ten years have been massively transforming for me, and I know I’m not alone. A lot can change in ten years, especially when you’re finishing off the decade in your early-to-mid twenties. At 22, the last ten years of my life were illustrated by constant change: becoming a teenager, graduating into adulthood — all while attempting to figure out who I am. I wanted to share both highlights of my decade, as well as, a reflection on how it impacted me overall, in the hope that it will help you to reflect on the last ten years in a gratifying light.

For me, this decade has been a whirlwind of change. At the beginning of the 2010’s, I was in a deep depression that escalated to major suicidal thoughts and, ultimately, a panic attack at the age of thirteen. Unexpectedly, I moved in with my father that same year, changing towns and switching schools at a young and vulnerable age. I was too young to recognize it then, but that year marked a crucial change in the right direction for me; my life would have turned out completely different had that not happened.

Fall 2010: the time of peace-signs and stick-straight hair.

2011 brought the beginning of high school, my first heartbreak, and my first experiences with the new-found freedoms of a high schooler. I began experimenting more with style (some outfits, of which, I’d like to forget) and got thin, blonde highlights in my hair. Oh, 2011.

2012 and 2013 were really good years for me. I found my place in the weird hierarchy of high school and progressed from being an awkward teen to a less-awkward, matured teen (if there’s such a thing). I quit dancing, which is sad.

July 2013: at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference. (Picture Courtesy of: The Washington Journalism and Media Conference)

In 2014 I experienced my first mature relationship, lost my virginity, and had more freedoms than I’d experienced up to that point in my life. The peak of 2014 was when I had to go the ER the night before I was supposed to take the SAT because I’d had an untreated UTI for over a week that had nearly progressed into a kidney infection. The result was no SAT and a really awkward sex talk from my dad.

2015 was the year of my high school graduation, acceptance into UNC Chapel Hill, a trip to Australia, and, ultimately, the beginning of my freshman year at Chapel Hill.

Summer 2015: one last summer of shenanigans before college.

2016 was another good year. I met someone who would be my everything for the next three years, I was in a music video, I began my sophomore year.

2017 progressed per usual, but with more anxiety and depression. I experienced the first death of a close loved one in my adult life: my grandpa. I didn’t know it yet, but 2017 would be my undoing. 

October 2017: Susannah’s 21st birthday. Looking back, it’s one of the many pictures of me that semester where my eyes look completely dead.

As I’ve written about before on here, 2018 was an extraordinary year of change for me. I was admitted into a psych ward. I withdrew from Chapel Hill. I began working full-time. I seriously contemplated taking my own life on multiple occasions. I cried a lot. 

Keeping to the trend, this year brought a lot of change with it. After a lot of contemplation and self-realization, I broke up with my boyfriend of almost three years: I felt bad about it, since he’d been there for me through my toughest time, but I’d grown so much in 2018 that I realized I needed to move on. I (very last-minute) enrolled at UNC-Asheville, fully ready to return back to academia. I traveled for the first time since Australia, visiting my friend in Colorado, re-fueling my love for travel and exploration. I made Chancellor’s List at UNC-A. I cried significantly less this year.

October 2019: hiking the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado.

I rediscovered myself this year, during a decade that was destined for self-discovery. It’s taught me that I’m an ever-evolving person, as we all are. It reminded me how much I enjoy being independent, going outside of my comfort zone, and just how much I love being in school.

I could easily compare myself in 2010 to who I am going into 2020, but that would be too easy. I was thirteen in 2010 and, quite frankly, I didn’t know shit. I still don’t really know much, but I’ve learned a lot in the last ten years, and I’ve learned most of it in the past two years. As certain life events cause trauma, they also expedite change, and you can choose whether or not to grow from that change. In 2019, I decided to take steps forward that would only allow me to grow more as an individual, and that’s something I don’t think I’ll ever regret.

Something that really allowed me to reflect on the last ten years was writing it all out in my journal. Year-by-year, I bulleted important life events that happened to me. I tried to keep each year to a page, but some years just overflowed onto a second page. This was a physical reminder of just how much I’ve experienced. At the end, I took all of the “bad” things that I’d experienced and wrote them down as good things: my first heartbreak at fourteen allowed me to learn how to handle future heartbreaks from a young age, while leaving Chapel Hill showed me where lines needed to be drawn in consideration of my self-worth and taught me the value of humility. Everything I’ve experienced in the last ten years has been only for my benefit; if you look at life as working against you, you are allowing life to control you, when you are actually holding the reigns of your future.

Happy 2020 to my friends and family, and thank you all so much for the endless amount of love and support during the last ten years.

Photo Courtesy of: my love, my life, Austin.

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