I’ve been seeing a lot of tweets lately about what people have done in the last 10 years. Lots of accomplished this, lost that, “2019 was a trash fire,” etc. It’s all very interesting, but as I look back on my own time, there’s this nebulous space. I think I’ve finally reached the age where the details start to fade. The 2010’s started when I was 25 and are ending at 35. I would argue that that’s when you do you most growing up. For me, the highs were high and lows were … mostly fine? Compared to the 10 years before 2010, these last 10 years were pretty great, actually. However, because I went Full Adult in the 2010s, my more youthful times are starting to slip away. I’m struggling to recall a lot of it. So let’s take a look at the raw data.
In the 2010’s, I …
- Held 8 jobs (Electric Artists, Conversation, 360i, Ogilvy, We Are Social, GLOW, littleBits and AT&T)
- Lived in 4 apartments (Bushwick, Williamsburg, Far Greenpoint and Greenpoint)
- Visited 5 foreign countries (Mexico, France, England, Bali, Iceland)
- Gained two full tattoo sleeves, plus a chest a piece, plus a leg piece
- Both my parents got cancer, and they both beat it
- Owned 2 motorcycles. Sort of wish I held onto the one I sold, but it’s whatever
- Almost moved out of New York twice
- Had 1 messy breakup. There’s some baggage there, but she’s a wonderful, decent, beautiful person that I hope is very happy
- Had a series of short, one-note relationships that ultimately made me feel worse than being alone. Again, these women were very nice and deserve happiness
- Met, dated and married my wife. It’s been almost 2 years and It’s terrifying how quickly time is passing.
Obviously getting married and embarking on the Age of Reb is the biggest personal milestone here. But like I said, this decade encompassed the back half of my 20s and the first half of my 30s. I don’t think you ever feel change more than during that time in your life. It’s when all your friends move away. You become somebody’s boss. When you start thinking longer-term about your relationships. You stop suffering fools. People in your life start to die. Your friends have kids and you don’t see them anymore. You start worrying about things like personal finance instead of Friday night plans. Nothing fits right anymore. You can’t stand up for an entire show anymore. Everything hurts all the time. This sea change of how you look at your life hits around 30, and presumably, sadly, only gets worse.
But I was only 25 when this decade began. I was still full of remaining teenage feelings and the idea of adult responsibility was only beginning to feel real to me. In 2010, I was in a relationship that I can say confidently propelled me from Boy into Man. I won’t get into details, but the relationship certainly had it’s hardships. But it forced me to really look critically into how I treated people, what I expected out of them and what a true partnership meant. I’m still figuring that out, but that relationship, which lasted 4 out of the 10 years in this decade, showed me what it really means to share your life with someone. Over those 4 years, I gained a lot of friends, had some great times, and did and said a lot of shitty things I’m not proud of but definitely learned a few things from. But that relationship really made me understand that I am 100% not a kid anymore. That there are consequences and rewards for the things you do. That love is not, in fact, all you need. That adulting isn’t just paying your taxes but having a responsibility to support the person who is choosing to spend their life with you. When that relationship ended I was 29, a critical time in people’s lives for figuring shit out. Those lessons I learned are paramount, and I think I learned them at exactly the right time.
While all this was going on, I had quite a few career changes. I’m coming up on 14 years of working in advertising/marketing, and I can’t believe I just typed that. In 2010 I made an attempt at freelance writing and doing comics full time, which lasted two months. Since then my relationship with work has only gotten more complicated. Prior to the 2010s, I had a job that put me on the brink of a total meltdown every day for 4 years. The highs were high, the lows were lower than you can possibly imagine. I gave myself an ulcer. I would wake up and immediately have a panic attack. Even today when I’m working I sometimes hear my old boss’s voice in my head like a brainwashing victim. In the 8 jobs I’ve had in the last 10 years, each one gave me something at least, but they also gave me a lot of headaches, anxiety and crushing self-doubt.
Working at different marketing agencies around New York will definitely kill you if you do it long enough. The “no rules” smaller shops where you get screamed at and called names and you are carrying the financial future of the agency on your shoulders going into every pitch. The giant agency where you’re a number and no one is paying enough attention to you to get anywhere (I worked at Ogilvy for 3 years and there were a solid 6 months where I did zero work because I faded into the background). The exciting startups where I was lied to, not listened to and then failed at. Luckily I’m closing out the decade with a very good job that I like a lot, but holy shit, everything else before that was really Not Great.
Speaking of work, from one of those shitty jobs I gained the best thing in my life — Reb. We met at a company holiday party. I was severely underdressed and new and didn’t know anyone so she introduced herself. I thought she was pretty and nice. Anyway, fast forward 8 years and we’re married. Reb, without a doubt, is the only woman I’ve ever been with that completely knows me. She knows exactly what each degree of my grumpiness means. She knows exactly when I need to be left alone. She knows what makes me happy, how my brain works, what my values are and how I see the world. Thankfully, she’s been nice enough stick around knowing all that. Strangely, I don’t look at marrying her as this big personal milestone, like this special once-in-a-lifetime thing that you’re supposed to measure your life in Before and After around. Marrying her was the most natural thing in the world, so it feels like she’s always been there. Without her, I would indulge the worst parts of myself, wither and descend into a life of hatefulness and frozen pizza from CVS. She helped me let go of my anger, my defining trait, and I owe her a lot for that. I found her in this decade, and she’ll be a part of every other decade too.
In 2020 I’ll be 36 years old. That’s, like, almost 40. As the years go on and the memories fade and my friends turn gray and wear dad sneakers and I get excited about stock trades and spend my Sundays cooking and my parents turn into helpless old fuddy-duddies and everything sucks, my 20s seem further and further away. Starting this decade as Mr. Cool Guy and ending it as Mr. Still Sort of Cool But Also Very Sensible Man is probably the best I could have asked for. I often joke that New Yorkers stay 25 for 10 years because none of us can afford to buy houses or have kids or do what adults normally do. I think on some level this is true, but for me less so. I don’t have a house or kids, or do a lot of the shit my suburb friends do. But at the same time, I feel profoundly different than I did 10 years ago. For those that know me best, they would (hopefully) tell you that I’m fundamentally the same, but the experiences I’ve had have helped me shed a lot of my shittier qualities and indulge in the better ones. I still have a long way to go, but I think in the last 10 years I’ve made some very good progress. I would give myself a solid B+.
I honestly have no idea what 2020 will bring for me. There are a few things I want to do but in the last 10 years, my self-discipline has gotten 0% better, so we’ll see if they actually happen. But as the photo album in my mind continues to fray and fade, I hope in 2020 I make a better effort to preserve it, so that I can continue to learn, evolve and grow.
I mean, if you’re not doing that, then what’s the point?