A decade in reflection

At the end of each year, it feels good, and sort of necessary to sit down and reflect on the 12 months that have come and gone. An exercise in catharsis, writing about the year is often a way I find some closure on all that has passed and set forward my intentions for the new year.

But as this particular revolution around the sun comes to an end, the reflection feels deeper, not just because this year has been so ridiculously intense (to put it lightly), but because we are also bringing to an end an entire decade. We are laying to rest everything that has transpired since 2010, all the triumphs and heartaches, the gains and losses, all the growth and the lessons learned.

I look back at who I was ten years ago, at that beautifully chaotic, deeply insecure 16-year-old, fumbling her way through life. Riddled with self-doubt and lacking in self-worth.

Now I look who I am today at 26 and I’m deeply proud of who I have become. Although the work is never finished, I can see how much I’ve done to heal from the insecurities of my youth and to cultivate a relationship of self-love and self-respect. Everything I have been through from challenging relationships to severe illness to crippling grief has helped me understand the value of life and the importance of living authentically.

A few of the decade’s biggest personal milestones:

  • Graduating from high school
  • First love at 19
  • A year and a half backpacking through South America
  • My mother being diagnosed with dementia
  • First heartbreak
  • Starting university
  • My dad overcoming esophageal cancer
  • Being diagnosed with cancer at 22
  • Beating cancer at 23 after 6 months of chemo (while completing my degree)
  • Learning Spanish
  • Traveling alone in Peru / Mexico for 5 months
  • Living in the Amazon for 2 months
  • Working as a teacher for a year in Ecuador
  • Moving to London
  • Starting my masters
  • Relapsing with cancer at 25
  • Completing my degree while going through cancer (again)
  • My mother passing
  • Having my life saved (by my sister) through a stem cell transplant.
  • Heartbreak again
  • Remission, again!!!

This decade has been the wildest, craziest, scariest, hardest, most earth-shaking ride. I’ve transformed into a woman. I’ve studied hard and partied harder. I’ve spent birthdays and Christmases in hospital, thrown myself onto airplanes and traveled to strange, far away destinations. I’ve recovered from an eating disorder, lived with an indigenous tribe in the rainforest, taught young minds, grieved the loss of a parent and connected deeply with another. I’ve shaved my hair 3 times, drunk plant medicine in the jungle, hitchhiked along the Pan-American highway, surfed tropical waves and painted giant murals. I’ve cried over lost love in Central American hostels, airplane window seats and in small Parisian cafes.

I traveled to Glastonbury as a groupie in a tour bus, I’ve loved someone who didn’t speak a word of English, I crossed continents on a tiny boat, I’ve been lost, I’ve been found, I’ve been depressed and I’ve come out the other side.

Despite almost dying, I have lived. I’ve done so much I’m proud of. My degrees are a huge part of that but more so my courage to travel alone, the ability to pick myself up again after being hurt so many times, the strength to carry on no matter how many times life has pushed me down.

I also, admittedly wasted far too much time hating my body, wanting to change myself, trying to shrink to appease others and neglecting my authentic self.

I am happy to now be able to bid farewell to this past decade and particularly this year, with all its pain and heartache. I spent most of 2019 in and out of the hospital and lost my mother and dog while completing my masters. I experienced bitter heartbreak and endured months of not being able to look in the mirror because I hated what I saw. Loss and growth and loss again, long periods of wondering if things would ever get better.

Now, I can see everything has its season. 2019 came to challenge me, to unearth me, to shake me awake and make me see how important it is to love and respect my journey. I don’t believe that things happen for a reason (sometimes shitty things just happen) but I do believe there’s a lesson to be found in everything we go through. Through suffering, we learn. Through the darkness, we appreciate the light. I was meant to meet the wrong people in order to learn what I do want in a partner. I was meant to learn how to carry my mother’s infectious love inside of me and share it with the world. I was meant to learn that nothing is permanent, that suffering is inevitable and that letting go is often far more important than holding on.

But the biggest lesson this decade has taught me is the importance of cultivating a relationship of love with ourselves. To be proud of who we are and confident in what we have to offer. To honour these incredible bodies which give us life. To say yes to adventures, and take risks on love and have enough self -respect to trust people when they show us who they really are. To live in the now and not squander the preciousness of today wishing for tomorrow, for a different life, body or reality.

To see the value in everything life gives us – the good and the bad.

To love. To love. To love.

I am so incredibly grateful to have made it out the other side of cancer, twice and to be educated, healthy, strong and alive.

To this next decade of health, happiness, self-worth and joy 🙂

Happy new year!

Michelle x

a young insecure girl at the start of the decade (2010)
On a boat somewhere in the Bolivian Amazon (2012)
hitchhiking through Costa Rica solo (2014)
in Berlin, after surviving cancer for the first time (2016)
living in the Amazon jungle (2017)
celebrating life in Barcelona (2018)
Me (2019)

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