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From a National Day of pretty much anything, to the various “challenges” with no known origin, social media has brought a whole lot of noise into our lives.  You’ve probably heard of the latest fad making its way through your Instagram feed, the 10-Year Challenge.

It’s pretty simple.  Find a picture of yourself from 2009 and compare it side-by-side to a picture of you now in 2019.  The most obvious differences are physical.  Ten years can have a dramatic affect.  Especially if you’re a member of Gen Z (AKA almost everyone on the current season of The Bachelor), so ten years ago you were about 12.

Laura Behnke The Life Actually Company 10 Year Challenge
2009 Laura in San Francisco.  I just got rid of this dress a little over a year ago! Happy to have ditched the bleach blonde TV anchor bob much earlier than that.
Laura Behnke The Life Actually Company 10 Year Challenge
2019 Laura, though technically the last day of 2018. My hair is darker and have more lines and wrinkles, especially on my forehead. But I'm happier than ten years ago.

I don’t really like to partake in the latest social media trend because I like to think I am different and unique.  (Don’t we all?) But then I got curious.  What did I look like back in 2009?  That’s when I quickly fell down the rabbit hole of photos and memories from a decade ago.

And that’s actually a good thing.

Let’s forget, for a moment the physical differences, like the bleach blonde hair and the lack of forehead lines and creases.  Instead, I became much more interested in what 2009 Laura was going through and what she was thinking.

Here’s where I was in 2009:  I had moved to San Francisco from Boston (a city I adored) about six months prior and was working as the Weekend Sports Anchor and Reporter at the NBC station in the Bay Area.  I had a brutal schedule that involved working at the studio in San Jose every Friday and Saturday night, which meant I didn’t get back to San Francisco until close to 1am, too late to meet anyone out.  I was living in a super cute one-bedroom apartment in Russian Hill with my cat Madison, but hopelessly single and seriously worried I would never find my first boyfriend, let alone a husband.

I had very few friends because of my horrendous schedule, and I spent a lot of time alone.  I was also nearing 30 and completely freaked out about what that actually meant.

In short, I was pretty miserable.  And I didn’t really understand or realize it at the time.

But I had tighter skin, fewer lines and wrinkles, my hair was healthier thanks to ten fewer years of harsh products and highlights, it was a lot easier to get and stay in shape, and I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted.

Laura Behnke The Life Actually Company 10 Year Challenge
The headshot from my former TV station in the Bay Area, circa end of 2008. How about that haircut??
Laura Behnke The Life Actually Company 10 Year Challenge
38 years old but still rocking the plunging jumpsuit for our rehearsal dinner in Mexico in May of 2018.

And yet, I wasn’t all that happy.  Nowhere near how I feel now.

But in every picture I found, I was smiling.  I remembered each of the events fondly and the friends and family with which I shared them.  I remembered the tough things I was going through at the time and how I found a way to get through it.

My heart was completely destroyed by a man (for the first time) in 2009 leading my dad to make an emergency trip out to SF to make sure I was okay.  I cried a lot, struggled with who I really was and who I wanted to be, and had conflicts with work colleagues because I didn’t yet know how to deal with my personal feelings of unhappiness.

But I persevered.  I never thought of each roadblock as its own challenge that needed to be conquered.  I just woke up every morning and got through.  One year later I would earn a job in New York City, achieving a lifelong dream.

It turns out, that 29-year-old woman was pretty damn strong.  Even if she never gave herself that kind of credit.  She supported herself, stood up for herself, and no matter what she just kept going.

And that is what is cool about the 10-Year Challenge.  It’s a fun excuse to take emotional stock in where you were and how far you’ve come.  And if you find you were in a better place back in 2009, well then maybe now is the time to take some steps to regain what it is you fear you’ve lost.  Because it’s still in there.

We are so much stronger than we think.  But don’t take my word for it!  Your own life and experiences will tell you that.  You just need to remember them and give yourself some credit for how far you’ve come.

Laura Behnke The Life Actually Company 10 Year Challenge
2009 Laura in Napa with friends. Yes, I still own this dress and wore it about a year ago!
Laura Behnke The Life Actually Company 10 Year Challenge
2009 Laura at Christmas with the family. Sorry to my brother for cropping him out!

Laura Behnke The Life Actually Company 10 Year Challenge
2018 Laura in DUMBO Brooklyn.
Laura Behnke The Life Actually Company 10 Year Challenge
2018 Laura channeling 1988 Laura with the puff sleeves.

And now, I give you full permission to judge my ridiculously blonde hair and “TV Anchor” cut.  Some of these clothes I actually still own, and some I kind of wish I had back.  But many are just a no.  Some things definitely need to be left in the past!

Have you done the 10-year challenge yet?  What do you remember about that version of you from 10 years ago?  Let me know what that person means to you now in the comments below.

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