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May the past decade be a guide for us to live a better life.

BY the time my friends showed up at my house for a dinner party on New Year’s Day, I had successfully pulled off a roasted leg of lamb to commemorate the beginning of a new decade.

A decade is a blank canvas painted differently by different people. For a friend of mine, the past 10 years saw him getting married, having three kids, getting cancer, beating cancer, and starting a new role at work.

His journey was definitely an eventful one. Another friend found a girlfriend, got married, then divorced in the last 10 years and now his social status is the same as how it was in 2010. Also a colourful journey, albeit of a different nature than the first person.

Some people I know have reached the kind of career success no one could have predicted a decade ago. Some are not with us anymore.

There are many things that we can reflect on when we’re on the subject of a 10-year personal evolution.

During dinner, I asked my friends about the most important lesson they have learnt in the past decade. Here is what they said, which I thought would be great for me to share.

LESSONS OF THE LAST DECADE

The first friend told me that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to for the sake of the bigger picture. This particular friend began 2010 with obesity, after many years of eating mindlessly and not taking care of himself.

Somewhere along the years, he had a health scare, which prompted him to immediately change his lifestyle.

As a result, he lost weight and is now living an improved lifestyle of balanced eating and frequent exercise.

These days, he looks younger than he did in the beginning of the decade, so the realisation really did change his life for the better.

The second friend narrated that he spent most of the past 10 years trying all sorts of things, from different interests to different career options.

Eventually, he developed a better sense of purpose and was able to establish what he really wanted in life. He has learnt to be open to different things because when you do, you will realise what you personally want and have no regrets because you’ve tried everything.

Another’s friend’s biggest lesson was realising that she did not have to be friends with everyone. When she was younger, she felt the incessant need to please and accommodate everyone, as is the usual predicament when you’re just starting out in the adult world and don’t have a strong sense of self.

Today, she is content with having a small group of very close friends, and isn’t concerned about accommodating everyone. “Quality over quantity,” she said, and I couldn’t agree more.

Another friend has come to the realisation that he shouldn’t be too hard on himself.

In the search and pursuit of things in life, he used to feel he was not up to mark but eventually, as he got older, he learnt to be more accepting and forgiving of his shortcomings.

Self-worth and self-appreciation are things all of us can relate to, no matter who we are or where we come from.

STEPPING INTO THE NEXT 10

It’s amazing that we’re already in a new decade. If you ponder on it, I daresay we will all realise that we have evolved in one way or another.

I find that the biggest lesson, or biggest change I’ve experienced, is a mind shift on how much I care about what other people think of my life choices.

Granted, I still do take into account the opinion of others as we live in a society, but much of what bothered me in 2010 — will people think I look weird in this outfit? Should I do this because everyone else is doing it? Do I dare to dream of things no one around me is dreaming of? — has gone out the window.

And good riddance too I said to myself as I scraped off the last of that roasted leg of lamb. I’m ready for the next 10, and more.

A geoscientist by day and an aspiring writer by night, Amal Ghazali ponders on everything, from perplexing modern-day relationship dilemmas to the fascinating world of women’s health and well-being. All done, of course, while having a good laugh. Read more of her stories at bootsoverbooks.com.

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