What defines a decade?
On the first day of the new year, I asked my dad what the new decade meant to him.
Sitting on the couch, he promptly told me that he would likely work for another 10 years and collect his Social Security at the end of it. That's all.
His answer struck me. It contradicted the messages of "new beginnings" and "infinite possibilities" that had been circulating among my friends and social media.
In 10 years, I'll be 26, whereas my dad will be 64. For some reason, it didn't occur to me that 10 years in my life looks drastically different than 10 years in my dad's.
Having never lived through an entire decade before, the arrival of 2020 has been especially interesting.
Sure, I've lived more than 10 years, but there's a difference between living 10 years and living through the chunks of time that break up our history. The thought that I've lived through major events that happened in the 2010s — the rise of social media, an impeachment, a progressive empowerment of student voices — is an exciting one, to say the least.
But what is it that makes this difference between a decade and 10 years? Why do we break up our lives into these certain periods? What defines a decade?
The literal definition of a decade is a period of 10 years. When we look back on our history, we generally break it up into different decades, with each having its own style, culture, and historical meaning.
I think the meaning of a decade varies between people. For my dad, he'll spend the next decade similar to how he spent the last one. One decade blurs into another.
Like anything, the less irregular this change in time has become, the more regular the effect of it has become. A decade's meaning for my dad has lessened over time; maybe as we get older, we tend to categorize time not by personal change, but by societal change.
On the other hand, a new decade for me is like uncharted territory. Over the next decade, I will graduate high school, attend college, get my own place to live (at least my mom hopes so), and start my first "adult" job, among other things.
Along with these, I'll meet new people, lose old friends, experience unknowns, learn new things, all within 10 years. This decade will be distinct from past and future decades in my life, marked by a series of pivotal changes. My decade will look completely different from my dad's, or anyone else's.
So, I guess what I'm getting at is that the meaning of a decade is both collective and personal at the same time.
We'll experience parts of it together, but whether we view it as a new frontier or a copy of all the others is a personal choice. But why does this all matter? Why should I care that my future looks different than yours?
The beginning of the 2020s is another friendly reminder that our paths, dreams and possibilities are different.
How we challenge one another and ourselves to pursue these acts is another opportunity for growth and change that we don't get very often.
A new decade is a new decade. It represents a fresh start whether you want it to or not.
For me, I hope my next decade is defined by new experiences and change as I go further into the world. I also hope that I'll get to share these new experiences with people like my dad and give him a break from his self-assigned 10-year work period.
Delaney Callaghan is a senior at West Linn High School.
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