Ten Years Gone: Reflecting on the #10YearChallenge

If you’re on social media, you can’t have failed to miss the recent #10YearChallenge, which has seen people have been posting photos of themselves from 2009 and the present, to compare how much they’ve changed.

I’ve heard some say it’s been popularised so that facial recognition software has more to work with and can develop ways of recognising faces as they age. Which is a bit of a cloud on what was quite an interesting social media fad.

Of course, I got involved but the whole thing prompted a lot of thoughts and I figured better to share them as a single blog than a lengthy barrage of tweets.

Here’s my picture:

10 year challenge

And here are my thoughts:

I think I’m actually heavier now than I was then. But I think I look better in 2019, and I feel better about myself too. It’s telling that there are only half a dozen photos of me from 2009, and a similar number in the years around it. I used to hate having my picture taken, and that’s part of the reason for the middle finger. In fact, most of the pictures I have from them are me pulling dumb faces, so that when I looked daft or bad, I could say it was on purpose.

I still have issues about how I look, but I’m not as hung up on the photo thing. This is the face I got, the body I have for now, and I’d rather have photos to remember the good times and people in my life. Hell, there are even a few photos where I think I look, well, if not good, then alright.

This is why I don’t agree with people who slam selfies. Taking selfies was something I thought was vain for a long time, but now I take a few. I have control of how I look (to an extent) and every time I have one that turns out alright, I feel more comfortable with my looks. I’ll still avoid catching sight of myself naked in a mirror if I can help it, but I don’t hate my body the way I did for a while a few years ago.

I guess it’s just an important reminder that as much as I want to lose weight that I can’t fixate too much on the number on the scales. My happiness and self esteem is tied into a whole lot more than that.

2009 wasn’t a terrible year for me, not long after this photo was taken I started a new job and I’d started doing sports commentary on a local community radio station, which was cool. I wasn’t paid for it, but it was media related and the first thing I’d done since graduating that gave me some feeling of achievement. After graduating in 2007 I’d had a rough time, readjusting to living with my parents and signing on, amassing piles of rejection letters along the way.

But I think mentally I was still in a shaky place. This trip to see a friend in 2009 was fun, but as with a lot of my “good times” then I was hammered for a lot of it. I wasn’t sure what I was doing with my life, or what I wanted, and I felt pretty worthless a lot of the time. The job I was about to start was a step into the unknown and I was a little scared, not wanting to wind up back on the dole again.

Drinking had been a big part of socialising for me, since my late teens and right through uni. Booze gave me a false confidence, drowning out my insecurities and bringing me out of my shell a bit. It also made me say stupid things, make bad choices and wasn’t great for my physical and mental health. I still drink now, but I’ve stopped the regular binges and can now hang out without a pint or four. And it’s been a long time since I had to endure the awkwardness of waking after a night out and fearing that I’d said or done something dumb.

I was single then and felt like this would always be the case. I’d had one girlfriend and we’d split up about a year earlier, and there was a nagging doubt that it had been it for me, that I was going to be one of those people who never found anyone.

And it wasn’t just in this area that nothing was going on. I had daydreams about various things, but nothing came of them. I made no effort to chase them, I just daydreamed and moped that my life was dull. It was a traditional vicious circle- I was bummed out because I wasn’t doing anything with my life, and annoyed that I wasn’t doing anything about it. But I was in too deep a funk to make the effort to change things.

In 2019, I’m definitely in a better place. While the work front is still a bit of a dud, I’m actively trying to achieve my dreams and ambitions. I’ve got back into writing and am planning to send off my first novel in the next month or so, and I’m chasing down a couple of things to help tick off some bucket list items.

I’ve also built a life for myself, a life which I’m very happy with. I’ve got a wife who loves and supports me, and I’m extremely happy to have found her.

I’m working on improving myself. Not just by getting healthier, but by working harder to be nicer, kinder and more considerate. I still fall short, I get angry, I get impatient, I can be tactless, but I try and I’m getting better at checking myself before I do something that might upset someone.

I look at the picture of me in 2009 and I see a guy who was happy, but only in small moment, often just adrift and worried. I see a guy who was still trying to be the guy he’d been at uni, and didn’t see the problems and flaws that I’d developed there. I used to say that university had helped me a lot, and I think it did. It made me more confident in myself, it made me more outgoing. When you move to a new place you have to make the effort to make friends and stuff, but I was blind to the bad habits I’d picked up along the way. A lot of my confidence had come from being seen as funny, and it took a while for me to realise that a lot of the humour I used at this time was quite unpleasant. I was meaner, sarcastic and distinctly more laddish.

I’d see it when my friends from uni interacted with my family or friends from back home. Or when I’d make jokes that wouldn’t go down well elsewhere. It wasn’t my friends that was the problem, it was that I was different people in different places. In between the two was me, but I hadn’t worked out how to figure out who that was. I’d become this loud, laddish guy who drank a lot and it took a while to work out what I liked about the changes from university and the ones I needed to shed.

I still get confronted by it when Facebook throws old status updates and I see my crude, poorly thought out gags and comments. I needed to work out who I was and while I still don’t feel like a real adult at times, I think I’ve definitely grown up since then.

As I said, I’m still working on myself, and who knows, 2029 Chris may cringe at some of the things I say now.

I’m more comfortable with myself, I’m more confident to call things out when I think something’s out of line, not just laugh it off or ignore it. I’m more considerate and thoughtful, less hard line in my stances, willing to listen to other voices and consider things from different perspectives. I’ve changed my mind on things, or realised that while I might disagree with some things, that it doesn’t make them stupid.

I’ve also become a lot happier expressing who I am and what I feel. The laddish costume that covered my insecurities is gone. I don’t mind admitting to crying over things, of being weak and scared. I don’t care if some of the things I like are seen as goofy or lame.

Basically I enjoy being me a lot more now.

Dark Chris is still there, with his negativity and doubts, but I’m more equipped to deal with him now. I can look and think about what he whispers, figure out how to work on them, as opposed to just covering it all up or making it a joke.

Dark Chris will always be there, but I just hope that I can strip him of his weapons one at a time, that I can drown him out with the good stuff. That he’s a mere speck of dirt, barely visible in the glow of Sunshine Chris, who helps me feel good about myself.

Sorry that was a bit of a ramble.

In short, I think I’m better now, and I’m trying to keep being better and don’t I look better with short hair and a beard?

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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