This year, for the first time, we ended up having a Christmas get-together at our house. During the gathering I remarked to a brother how my 30s have been so much better than my 20s. “Yeah,” he countered, “but you also have more money.”
Well, yes, but that’s hardly all of it. As the curtain closes on this decade, I’m compelled to reflect a bit on what this decade means to me. Wasn’t that such a troublesome, tiring ten years? I won’t go into all the particulars in a blog post, but on a personal level, I was compelled to face a lot of baggage from the past. Not fun at all, and an experience that I would only wish upon my worst enemy.
If there’s one thing I learned during the past ten years, it is that change can beget change. Due in part to this confrontation with the past, we ended up relocating to another state just to get a change of scenery, which in turn produced far more unexpected diversions than I had anticipated. I had some very concrete plans for my college studies when we moved to Arizona. Those plans that never materialized, and for that I am most grateful.
As I say, it was a very painful decade. So many old episodes of pain to have to revisit. That plus the occasional terrorist attack and economic meltdown made it a wearying time to be alive. As we have been reminded repeatedly – as recently as last week – these events are far from over. In these areas I anticipate the next decade won’t much better than the last, but is likely to be even worse. But I am struck with how very different I am. I’m nowhere nearly the same person I was January 1, 2000. Whether by my environment or my agency, I have changed, and I think for the better. I’m a bit more certain of myself, and yet far less certain, and I take both as virtues.
Similarly, my wife is not the same person I married. In a good way. She’s deeper, a bit more locked into faith. She had these qualities before, of course, but they’ve only improved with time. If this decade was hard on me, it was at least as equally unkind to her, and so we have both been refined by the experience. I look back on the last ten years with gratitude – both for those things that I learned and that those experiences are behind me. Like Bilbo Baggins, I saw and learned things I never would have known any other way.
I began this post on December 31, 2009. It is now January 1, 2010. I hear all the predictions of further doom and gloom in the new decade, and I tend to agree that we are lining up for more of the same during the next ten years. But for whatever reason, I feel strangely optimistic. Happy New Year, I guess?