How being retrospective can change your story

Looking back at the decade which has just ended throws up many forgotten highlights.

Rachel Extance on Cape Cod

My husband and I began the last decade with our epic trip down the east coast of America. (Spoiler alert: he wasn’t my husband then.) We flew into Boston and took the train down to Washington, exploring Cape Cod, Providence, New York and Philadelphia along the way. We still have fond memories of that trip, from the bars we drank in to the places we saw.

Looking back at the last decade, I realise how much we have done and how little thought we give to it. It’s the start of the year and we’re all looking forward to times to come but do we do ourselves a disservice by not remembering what has gone before?

Our engagement selfie in the rose garden at Ickworth

We got engaged in 2010. It was a glorious day and we had gone to Ickworth, a National Trust property about half an hour away from our home. As we sat in the rose garden and I thought what a lovely romantic spot it was, my boyfriend asked me to marry him.

Many adventures followed including figuring out how to plan a wedding and a weekend in Milan with my best friends. We got married at our local church and then held the reception at Queens’ College in Cambridge. Next day we saw Pulp play in Hyde Park before flying out to Sri Lanka for our honeymoon. We drank champagne by the sea, explored a rainforest, held a snake, saw elephants, climbed Sigirya (a 200 metre high rock with the remains of a fortress at the top), and walked through a cloud forest to World’s End.

A photo of me walking on the beach on honeymoon in Sri Lanka

We had met as Open University students and between getting back from America and getting married, we both graduated. He with a First in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and me with a First in International Studies.

That’s just what we did in the first two years of the decade. In 2012 we went to the Olympics and the Paralympics, had our kitchen renovated, and travelled from Verona to Venice by train.

My OU graduation at Ely Cathedral

Life slowed down after that. I got pregnant and developed a pulmonary embolism. Everything changed, from my ability to get around to getting over my fear of needles – and of course, my views on the important things in life. Our first baby was born in 2013 and while my world got smaller in some ways, it developed in others. I made new friends and learned about raising a new human.

Another baby followed. And so did redundancy. I started my own business in January 2017. I entered a new world of balancing work and children, learning skills from doing accounts to sales. I had to step out of my comfort zone, put myself in unfamiliar situations and be self-reliant. My first client was running an international research project culminating in a conference at the European Parliament. Three years on, I’m still self-employed and last year I registered my own limited company. I’ve gone from being terrified to talk to people at networking events to standing on stage and speaking at conferences.

Rachel Extance presenting at Cambridge Social Media Day 2019 by Jemima Willcox Photography

Why am I telling you all this?

An awful lot can happen in 10 years. We often gloss over everything we’ve done, particularly the good things.

How often do you meet someone and respond ‘oh you know, same as ever’ when asked what you’ve been up to? Is that really true? Are you really stuck in a rut or have you got memories locked away that you haven’t looked in a while.

While writing this I have remembered all kinds of things I had forgotten to include, such as taking Seth Godin’s altMBA. Not only did I learn loads from the experience but I met people from all over the world. I still write with a group of them every week and we wrote a book together over the summer.

What story are you telling yourself as you start the new year? If you had asked me yesterday, I would have said I hadn’t done much. But looking back at my photos, I realise I’ve achieved a lot over the past 10 years. I’ve also had lots of great times with friends, enjoyed festivals, meals out and been to gigs. I realised my childhood dream of going to the British Grand Prix. It’s not all been sunshine and roses, there have been dark times too, but overall, the 2010s were not as depressing as have been feeling they were.

Take a look back through your camera roll. What are you going to build on from the last 10 years? What do you want to do more of? Travelling is back on my list for sure!

A photo of me in Paris with my boyfriend

One Response

  1. This is so lovely! Thanks for sharing your adventures Rachel – it’s a lovely story and made me smile a lot. I look forward to seeing what you do with the coming decade!

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