10 Lessons I Learned in the 2010s

The 2010s were my formative years; I turned 13 at the beginning of the decade and am finishing it as a 22-year-old. The past decade brought a lot of changes and life lessons, and I have become a stronger person in the process. Below are ten lessons I learned in the 2010s, one per year.

  1. 1. 2010: Develop a thick skin.

    I started the 2010s as a newly-minted teenager, and middle school wasn’t particularly kind. The best strategy when dealing with bullies is to develop a thick skin early on and let insults roll off your back. If you don’t give them a reaction, they lose satisfaction. Having a thick skin doesn’t just apply to middle school; it is helpful at every stage in life, especially when applying for jobs.

  2. 2. 2011: Put yourself out there and try new things.

    Not only did I start high school in 2011, but I also went to a new school. I was one of the only new kids in a place where everyone knew each other since kindergarten or first grade. I needed to find a way to break through my shyness and make friends, so I joined the basketball team despite never having played before. In doing so, I made connections with my new classmates and gained an appreciation for sports.

  3. 3. 2012: Don’t change your personality to fit in.

    Once I settled in at my new high school, I was so afraid people wouldn’t like me that I didn’t express an opinion about anything. I soon realized that I was hiding my true self in order to fit in. I am not meek: quite the opposite, actually. I was tired of concealing my passionate personality, so I started using my voice. Not all of my classmates liked the real me, but that’s okay; it is impossible to please everyone in life. In fact, if everyone does like you, something is probably amiss.

  4. 4. 2013: Distance yourself from toxic people and situations.

    A lot of people have unhealthy friendships in high school, and I am no exception. A certain person was sucking the life out of me with her constant mood swings, and I knew I had no choice but to make a change. Ending a friendship is never easy, but once I did it, I instantly felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I had been carrying around a burden I didn’t even know existed. This was one of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in my life, but sometimes, you have to distance yourself from toxic people and situations for your own sanity.

  5. 5. 2014: Don’t let once-in-a-lifetime opportunities pass you by.

    During my junior year of high school, my grade went to Yosemite National Park for a school trip. On the second day, I was mistakenly placed in the group that was set to climb to the top of Yosemite Falls. While the prospect of a five-hour climb was daunting, I realized that I would probably never get the chance to climb to the top of the Falls again, so I begged my teachers to keep me in the group. Five hours later, I made it up to the top of Yosemite Falls. As I gazed at the mountains across the way and the trees below, I felt like I was on top of the world. The lesson here is you can do anything if you set your mind to it.

  6. 6. 2015: The world is so much bigger than the U.S.

    After graduating from high school, I traveled abroad for the first time. During the trip, I realized that most Americans have a superiority complex: it’s their way or the highway. Scottish people are incredibly friendly, and in Barcelona, employees receive multiple breaks throughout the day, including at 10AM. Through experiencing different cultures in Europe, I learned there are different ways of living, and my own life became richer as a result.

  7. 7. 2016: When life knocks you down, get back up.

    I suffered from imposter syndrome and heightened anxiety after a difficult first semester at Barnard. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be here. Despite my anxiety doing its best to convince me otherwise, I returned to Barnard for my sophomore year and found my footing. Like most first years, I simply went through growing pains while adjusting to college. I learned that you have to believe in yourself and persevere in the face of adversity.

  8. 8. 2017: Love is worth the pain it might cause.

    I had my first real experience with death when my grandmother and grandfather passed away within three months of each other. I was extremely sad, but I also realized that love gets you through the hard times. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my parents and close friends, and I am lucky to have them in my life.

  9. 9. 2018: Don’t sweat the small stuff; live your life instead.

    During my junior year of college, I became bogged down in my assignments and pulled back from my friends. When one of my high school classmates died in a car crash in 2018, I realized I needed to make a change. Her death was shocking and incredibly unfair; she was only 21 years old and had her whole life ahead of her. This tragedy taught me that I have to live my life because every day is a gift. I have recognized my perfectionist tendencies and successfully (for the most part) reined them in, and I now make more time for my friends.

  10. 10. 2019: Good things come to those who wait.

    I chose to graduate in nine semesters and it paid off. This month, I finished my undergraduate career and am currently applying to graduate school. I learned that the saying “slow and steady wins the race” really is true. Don’t allow people’s expectations to rule your life; do what is right for you.

The 2010s consisted of many ups and downs, but I would not be the person I am today without the lessons I learned along the way. I am excited to see what the next decade holds.