• michaelabennison

The Last 10 Years: Looking Back Over the Past Decade

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards." -

Søren Kieregaard

Many people have reviewed their past year/decade across social media over the last couple of weeks, with a mixture of nostalgic optimism and pithy wit in varying degrees. Including myself. When I posted my #top9of2019 on Instagram, I cherry picked my highlights from the anaemic selection of flattering photos on my phone. In a world increasingly fixated on appearances and perception, it's hard for most to not slide on the rose tinted glasses or offer a slice of wry commentary.

My Top 9 of 2019

When I decided to reflect on the last 10 years of my life (I say "decided": seeing the whole internet talking about their last decade tends to bend ones thoughts in the same direction), the first thought that struck me was how much my personal growth has resulted from the darkest moments of my life.

Now, my first blog post since December 2018 is no time to be maudlin, so I'll refrain from being so. And the past ten years have been filled with amazing moments:

  • becoming a professional actor, my dream since I was 15

  • getting into drama school

  • performing my own poetry in public

  • meeting some of the most loving, caring, socially/environmentally conscious, creative and inspiring people in my life so far

  • moving to London

  • learning to love and value myself and my worth (it's been a journey!)

But looking back at my life between 2010 and 2019 has also meant revisiting:

  • being diagnosed and recovering from my eating disorder

  • getting into a relationship that was not only toxic for me but that, most likely, hurt other people who I once called friends

  • a seemingly uncountable amount of rejection (I'm an actor; it comes with the gig)

  • losing my nan and my grandma less than 6 months apart

  • crippling writer's block

  • having people I once lent on drift out of my life

But, whilst these things are all the most negative moments from the past 10 years (apart from recovery; that was definitely a net positive), coming through them, surviving them, and learning how to positively cope and heal from them has made me a stronger, happier person. I also hope that it has made me a better person, but that's not for me to judge.

We are not immune from the bad moments in our lives or the bad decisions we make. They are difficult and horrible and painful go through and face up to. During this decade I was forced to come face to face with self-loathing I didn't even know I had. Self-loathing that made me ill. I don't believe that "it happened for a reason", sent by the universe to teach me valuable life lessons.

Tell that to the people who don't survive mental illness.

But for those of us who do survive the pain and heartache life throws at us, I do believe that, to paraphrase Carl Yung, we are not what happened to us, we are who we chose to become.

Every day I'm trying, albeit imperfectly, to be who I chose. At the end of the 20s 2.0, I'll see how I've done.

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