I'm an American expat, writer. photographer. and old-fashioned romantic in love with celebrating the simple joys of daily life. I appreciate timelessness, the natural world, and a slow life lived with simplicity and intention. When I'm not photographing families or slowly traveling the world and writing about it in a little notebook, I'm happily grounding myself in nature and cozying up with my sweet husband.
Let’s just get right into it – this post is a long and personal one – but very important. The top 10 life lessons I learned in the 2010s! (age 15-25)
1. Acceptance is the Gateway to Peace
True acceptance was a major lesson I learned in the last decade of the 2010s, and it was from this acceptance that I found lasting, genuine peace in all areas of my inner world. I found that by accepting everything as it is and acknowledging the gift in the present moment, peace will surround me.
Simply being appreciative and grateful for what is already in front of you is the key to lasting joy.
One of the best books I read in the 2010s was Loving What Is by Byron Katie. She describes her process known as “The Work” much better than I could!
2. Values are Personal and Subjective
One of the major life lessons that defined my youth was rebelling against those who forced me to live my life based on their values. It was a struggle to learn over the decade, as I’ve always been sensitive to criticism and insecure when it comes to external expectations. My stubborn Taurean bull tendencies always refused to give in without a fight.
But in this decade, I learned much about having patience and acceptance for others that celebrate differing values. To this day I have family that often will force a life vision or value down my throat, a vision that suits their personal values but not my own. And yet, I don’t react anymore. As an older, and a bit wiser human, I’ve learned immensely about patience and compassion for those whose values are different from my own.
I found that by watching my mind listening to them, by accepting them for who they are (sometimes needing a bit more patience than usual!), and by allowing and celebrating them for living out their values, conflict lessons and internal peace improves.
Today I still have occasional temper flareups with this issue, but I have to say: it’s become a whole letter better in the last decade!
3. Achievements do not Lead to Happiness and Fulfillment
As much as we all attach value to achievements, awards and financial success, these things do not bring lasting happiness nor fulfillment. In the last decade, I learned how more important it is to be, rather than do.
To be present, be aware, be appreciative.
I spent 2010-2017 focusing on achievement, on being the driven go-getter that defined my youth. I was taught from a young age that to escape poverty and be loved, I had to make something great. I had to do great things to be noticed, appreciative and loved. But upon reaching my mid-twenties I realized that what was shown to me as a child was not the answer, the real answer, to lasting happiness.
Long-lasting happiness comes from simply being. Being the watcher of your mind, being aware of what lights you up, being surrounded by people who lift your spirits. It is not in fame, or money or success, as many peers and teachers – and still, today, my family – continually tell us it is.
What I’ve learned from 12 years of focused drive and achievement-chasing, is that those who chase after achievements – and only success and achievements – get burned out in the end. Those who drive themselves out from stress and to-dos and this hustle culture our western world has placed such an importance on, get tired, eventually ill and they quit.
Achievement-chasing is lonely, draining, and never-ending. The shiny penny chasing never stops.
In the 2010s, I learned the importance of ignoring the noise and living life to my values.
4. Relationships are What We Remember
At the end of our lives, we won’t remember the achievements or the stuff that we bought, the house that we own or the money in our bank accounts, we’ll remember the people and the relationships we had with them. We’ll reminisce on the interactions, the moments of human connection, the shared experiences together. I’ve watched countless Youtube videos of elderly people ruminating on their happiest memories, and the moments they remember most about their long lives, always has to do with relationships, family, and sharing laughter and connection with loved ones.
Friendships were a central theme in my late teens to early twenties, as they are for most young people in their young adult chapter of life. I found my approach to friendships evolving in the 2010s, as my values changed significantly over the decade.
What I learned – mostly through trial and error and varied life experiences – was this: you really are who you hang with.
Over time, you begin to take on the characteristics and personality traits of the people you spend the most time with. Your crowd becomes a reflection of you.
More importantly, the people you spend your time with are how you will feel. If you want to feel positive and abundant, spend time with people who feel hopeful and excited and happy about life. Notice who you are inspired and uplifted by, and make a deliberate choice to only spend time with those you want to feel more like.
6. Not Everyone Will Like You – and That is a Good Thing
Something that took me close to a full decade to understand was a simple fact that not everyone will like you. I always believed that if you were good, kind and loving to others, you shouldn’t ever make any enemies or have people dislike you.
It was naive and foolish of me to believe this for as long I did.
Every person operates on a different energy level, a different frequency. I may naturally be a genuinely happy and joyful person – but there will be plenty of people who think my smiley persona is fake.
There will always be people out there who meet me and think that I can’t possibly be as optimistic and happy about life as I actually am. They will tell themselves that I have something to hide. I could have nothing but good intentions and loving-kindness for others, but there will always be those who dislike me because they cannot relate to me or my life path, the choices I made, and the disposition I have. And that is perfectly well and okay. My job is not to please everybody; my job here on earth is to please myself.
Instead of focusing on appealing to everybody, I focus instead on living my truth and trusting that the right people will resonate with me. The rest is out of my hands.
7. Life is How you Choose to Live it
In the last decade of the 2010s, I made plenty of mistakes. I chased after money and fame, success and other shiny things. Early on in the decade, I tried to please people and eventually discovered that simplicity and enjoyment is what I personally value most.
I discovered that I don’t need to create something great so that I will be remembered forever – hence why I don’t fear death – and I don’t need to earn a lot of money out of fear of not having security; I just trust and everything magically works out as it is meant to. This belief won’t relate to everybody, and many won’t connect to how I live and choose to live my life (manifestation, beliefs, intentional living, etc), but it’s what works well for me.
Everything in life is about choice. You can choose to enjoy it and live life fully on your terms, or you can decide to repress your dreams and be miserable. I just choose the first option.
We all have free-will in this life. We can choose how we think, and we can always choose how we react.
8. Perception: Everything is a Reflection
Your emotions and feelings towards others are a reflection of how you feel inside towards yourself. Your attitude and beliefs about life is a reflection of what you hold to be true.
We like who we see in ourselves. We are attracted to those individuals that are a reflection of us. We dislike what we see as threatening or not true to your own lens.
Everything is filtered through the lens of perception.
9. Life is not black and white
One of the biggest life lessons I learned as a twenty-something millennial in the 2010s was that life is not as black and white as my simple mind often thinks it is. Life may look simple, but there is so much more underneath the surface, and it is naive to judge anything in life at first glance.
People are richly complicated and fascinatingly grey. It is what makes life interesting and our stories worth telling.
10. Only Ask Advice From Your Inner Voice
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve asked people to check in with their gut. While I don’t know exactly where I initially learned this from, I’ve always felt deep down that the best answers, the truth, comes from our gut. I’ve always believed that the answers were with me, right in front of me, begging to be looked at and explored. They didn’t come from books or documentaries, experts or knowledge, the answers always come from within.
Hunches, gut feelings, inner voice, intuition – whatever you want to call them – is the only true answer worth listening to. Everything else is just noise. Noise and chatter coming from everyone else’s egos and past experiences.
But the only true experience you can rely on and depend on is your own. If there is one life lesson that impacted me the most in the last decade, the 2010s, it is the priceless and powerful lesson of listening to your own intuition.
My Personal Reflections on the Last Decade
2019 was a year of deep “peace” “healing” and “restoration” for me. It was filled with walls being torn, cracks being healed, boundaries put firmly in place, full awareness of the “self” and deep forgiveness and compassion for myself and others.
It was a year of humility and learning, the end of a long 25-year cycle for me spiritually. While I still have so much growth to undergo, I truly feel like I’ve bid adieu to my young adult self.
The wildness in me is gone. The free-spirited rebel calm and at peace with the quiet and the stillness. The ex-city dweller at home in the country. The vibrant cartoon now shaded in soft pastel.
I am not the ambitious go-getter that defined my youth. I am not the wild rebellious character that defined my early twenties. I seek less. I seek nature, simplicity and art. I relish in the slow.
This new year feels so much bigger than just a new decade. It feels like a total soul progression. The end of an era. I sense there is so much ending – not just in my personal life but in the collective consciousness, in humanity, in our planet. I hope your new decade reflects what YOU value most.
So long, 2010s….when they read about us, our generation, our time in the history books, may we be a reflection of goodness, kindness and hope.
“…likened to a wild horse that has been captured and tamed. Though the horse must be broken to accept the saddle, if it is done properly, it doesn’t lose its heart. Lovingly transformed from its wild state to one of domesticity, it ultimately develops a symbiotic relationship with its master. Even though tame, such a horse can exhibit a pride, stature, or bearing that commands not only respect or affection but reverence.” – The Secret Language of Birthdays (my Bible)
10 Life Lessons I Learned in the 2010s
December 31, 2019
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I'm Helena! As a creative storyteller, I document magical, emotionally honest family and children's portraiture. A lover of childhood, fairytales and natural light, I photograph families across the world. I'm the ultimate Disney nerd, and I'm obsessed with cats and expressing my love for the simple joys of slow, daily life.