Preparing for a new decade

Steven Stiefel is a staff writer at the Times-Journal. Email:

Now that December is arriving this weekend, it’s time for the inevitable reflection on the preceding 11 months. As the last month of the second decade of the 21st century, it’s only natural to reflect upon the previous 119 months as well -- basically everything that’s happened to you and around you since the calendar rolled over to the 2010s.

I never knew what to call the decade ending. The “teens”? More awkward-sounding than the 2000s or the decade ahead of us, “the twenties.” I’ve spent the last 10 years feeling as if 2001 was roughly a decade ago. Nope.

There’s a popular social media challenge going on Facebook where you post a photo of yourself from 2009 and a current one to compare side-by-side. The entertainment value rests in seeing how much life has kicked your backside in a decade and how much it shows in your physical appearance. For most folks, it’s meant getting fatter, balder, more wrinkly, and grayer in hair.

Or is that just me?

Days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millenia -- all completely arbitrary aside from the practical marking of repetitive cycles of daylight and seasons.

We give heightened significance to months, years and decades because they block off sections of time. We look back fondly on decades, which seem to have distinctive characteristics apart from one another. The seventies were a totally different creature from the eighties, from disco to MTV, gas shortages to unabashed materialism.

There’s value in attaching greater significance to transitions between decades as more than changing calendars. It’s a metaphorical line we cross over together. And it’s a fantastic opportunity to resolve to do something truly positive and life-changing, ridding yourself of old baggage (both literally and figuratively), old resentments, and self-defeating habits and beliefs.

Time can either be our ally (compounding the interest of money we regularly put aside for savings) or dole out consequences for a lack of focus and discipline (spending instead of saving to accumulate things we don’t really need, clogging our arteries with bad food choices, etc.).

I have a few suggestions to think about during the month of December and consider doing to use the changing of the calendar to ignite positive change:

  • Start a Journal - It’s therapeutic and will help you recall experiences when your memory begins to fail you later.
  • Clear out your phone voicemail to free up space - Use one of those nifty apps like GarageBand to re-record those old messages you just can’t stand to delete. I did this last week, re-recording saved messages from friends and family who’ve passed away, as well as my daughter’s sweet voice when she was so little. These moments are precious and deserve to be archived. Start 2020 with a phone that will actually have space available for someone to leave a life-changing voicemail for you.
  • Make regular contributions to a savings account or retirement account - Your future self will thank you. Arranging for small but regular increments to be taken out of each paycheck will hurt less than having to come up with a rainy day fund under duress.
  • Set up a ‘quarterly plan’ - I created spreadsheet with the next 10-50 years added along the left side and the words “Winter,” “Spring,” “Summer,” and “Fall” across the top columns. Bam! The rest of my life is organized into chunks, 3 months apiece, each year just like a football game. In each of those seasons, I choose some new skill I want to learn to do, some trip I want to take, etc. This makes the changing of the seasons relevant for more than just changing out clothes in storage for upcoming weather. And there’s the added benefit of knowing you can do anything for three months if you set your mind to it. Another word for this is creating milestones to achieve by specific dates.
  • Do a scrub of your social media profiles - It’s not just for job-hunting anymore. Ask any disgraced celebrity whose past Tweets do not age well and come back to haunt them.
  • Re-examine your relationships - Reconnect with old friends, apologize for past wrongs, and bury the hatchet over disagreements. You’ll love reminiscing about how you spent the 2010s apart and make plans to experience “the twenties” reunited.

— Steven Stiefel is a staff writer at the Times-Journal. Email:

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