10 Life Lessons this Decade Taught Me

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Hi, I'm Chelsey

As we close out the year, I’m starting to reflect on the life lessons of the 2010s. I lived the entirety of my 20s in this decade and transformed from a young 20-year-old who felt like I should have my life together by a certain age to a fully grown 30-year-old adult who realizes no will ever feel like they’ve reached that point of ultimately having their life figured out.

But seriously, when I look back at each year, some significant milestones and memories brought me to where I am now. This post is a bit personal, but I hope it inspires you to think about life lessons you’ve learned as well. Below are the life lessons, along with a backstory that I’ve learned since 2010. 

The 10 Life Lessons I Learned in 10 Years

lessons learned through the decade Topshop top (similar) | YSL bag | Topshop shorts | Target shoes (similar) | DIFF glasses

1. You don’t have to live by society’s standards.

2010: When I was growing up, the 4-yr degree plan was the standard length for an undergrad. As I was finishing up high school, the norm of obtaining your bachelor’s degree even started to extend to a 4-5 year plan. After looking at the credit requirements and limits per semester about mid-way through my college experience, I realized I could graduate early. In December of 2010, I made that happen and graduated in 3 years. Graduating from college earlier than the norm taught me that if I work for it, I don’t have to live by the standard timeline.

2. Life will knock you down to teach you humility.

2011: Being a post-grad person is hard! I’m a millennial, meaning I went to college during the economic downslide of ’08. It also says that as a young kid, grown-ups taught me that if I go to school, then I’ll get a good-paying job. It was a blessing that I didn’t have student loan debt on my back on top of not being able to find a job, but still, I could not find a job. The fairytale of “go to school and you’ll receive a good job” was obliterated, and I was smacked with the reality of that not being the case, especially with the economy slowly building itself up. 

It took me six months to find a job that required a degree, but it paid me lower than what I mentally said would be my lowest accepting salary when I graduated. The first six months of finding a job taught me that following a path doesn’t mean you’ll end up where your entitlement says you should. You’ll sometimes have to take a bite of humble pie, despite how unfair it feels, and settle in the short-term to prosper in the long-term.

life lessons over ten years

3. A reliable support system will help you through hard times.

2012: In 2012, my retail management job was extremely unfulfilling. I also realized that the degree “requirement” was merely a vanity metric for the company’s sake rather than being a requirement to complete the job. My goal was to get promoted and increase my pay. Despite being next in line for the promotion and working towards it, a male with less experience received the opportunity. While it was disheartening at the time, the situation was ultimately a blessing in disguise. Dealing with rejection and workplace drama at a job I already didn’t like was hard, but it would have been harder without my friends and family. The friendships I developed is what kept me at that job for so long. In 2012, I learned that a supportive group of friends is critical to give you the added strength to push through adverse situations.

4. Sometimes a loss is setting you up for something greater.

2013: I spent the latter half of 2012 and the first part of 2013 looking for a new job. I mean, why stay at a place that treats you poorly, has unnecessary drama, and denies you an opportunity for advancement? In 2013, I found a new job that had everything I wanted. After working retail since the age of 17, it felt like a turning point to land an office job with weekends off and a set schedule. The new job taught me about the finance industry, paid my worth, and afforded me the luxury of getting a better apartment. I learned that sometimes what you want is not what you need. What you may initially perceive as a blocked blessing could be a set up for something greater. 

the life lessons from a decade

5. Time is limited. Cherish people while you have them and create experiences that turn into valuable memories.

2014-2016: To be completely honest, 2014-2016 felt like one long, extended year. Socially, there was an excessive amount of traumatic news consistently published for us to consume in the media. Personally, my family experienced a lot of losses during this time. Emotional exhaustion and loss were admittedly at the forefront of what I remember, despite having some great times in between–including Hawaii! During this time, I learned that we are all here for a limited amount of time. Nothing can replace the memories and experiences we share with people.

6. Manifestation is a real thing.

7. Some people enter your life to teach you a lesson.

8. Shopping for the sake of shopping does not bring joy.

2017: In 2017, I learned three life lessons and wrote a blog post about the year. I won’t rehash all the details, but I strongly recommend checking out the blog post because those lessons still apply. The post goes into a bit more detail, and it’s still one of my favorite reads today. Ultimately, I learned that manifestation is real, not everyone in your life takes up a permanent space, and shopping without a purpose does not bring me joy. 

life lessons over ten years

9. It’s okay to take a moment and be alone.

2018: In my New Year’s post for 2019, I talked about how 2018 was just an okay year for me. It was neither good nor bad; it was just alright. In hindsight, I realize now that it was just an okay year because I felt stagnant. As much as I love a good routine, I also crave positive change when life gets too comfortable. After going through post-grad adjustments from 2010-2011, finding my groove in the working world from 2012-2013, dealing with loss from 2014-2016, and handling the ups and downs of dating from 2016-2017, it makes sense that I wanted monotony in 2018. While it isn’t a standout year within the decade, that year of just existing and not pushing myself was necessary to regroup. In 2018, I learned that it’s okay to “be” if you need a moment to yourself, so long as you don’t remain that way forever. 

the life lessons from a decade

10. Respect yourself enough to set boundaries on your time and space.

2019: This past year was pretty challenging for me. My word of the year was balance, which I stretched to its limits. I kicked off the year by committing myself to do a photo-a-day challenge to get rid of that stagnant feeling from the previous year. I wanted to learn and grow, which also led to applying for a social media manager internship. 

Part of balance is learning when to let go of something that no longer serves you, rather than continuing it just for the sake of checking a box. Neither opportunity brought me joy; instead, they grew to become unnecessarily stressful at times. I wanted to learn and grow, but just through a different path, which I later discovered was furthering my academic education. You can read more about my journey to graduate school in the post about overcoming doubt. 

I say all that to say that I dealt with extended periods of stress, exhaustion, and isolation this year. I applied the idea of “balance” by letting go of what no longer served me and taking breaks to focus on other priorities. Even though I wanted to check those goal boxes and finish the tasks to completion, I stopped the photography challenge and ended my social media position. I was not a fan of potentially letting people down, but sometimes you have to put yourself first to avoid burnout. This year I learned that if you don’t set boundaries with your time, emotional support, and personal space, people and circumstances will overstay their welcome–unintentional or not. Let your inner circle know when your availability will decrease and move forward with your personal goals. 

What life lessons have you learned over the past ten years?

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