Which was your best decade? Worst?


One of the great pleasures of Montreal, the Atwater Market


By Caitlin Kelly

We listen to satellite radio in our nicer car and, I admit it, I listen to the ’80s channel.


Because, yes, it was easily my best and most fun decade, my 20s.

Promptly followed by my worst, the ’90s.

So, my ’80s:



I win an eight-month-long fellowship, based in Paris on Rue du Louvre at the CFPJ, called Journalists in Europe, which chooses 28 men and women 25 to 35 who speak fluent French and English to come and study Europe and write about it, traveling throughout as a group and on solo 10-day reporting trips. There are JEs from Togo, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Brazil, China and many others. We form unlikely close friendships, like mine with Yasuro,  from Japan, discussing baseball in French. It’s an amazing, exhausting, life-changing year, the happiest of my life, creating friendships that will last for many decades yet to come and giving me a tremendous boost of skills and self-confidence. Plus, getting to live in Paris!


I return to dreary Toronto and finally break up with my live-in boyfriend there who wants to get married. I don’t want to get married so young.


I finally win my dream job, as a reporter for Canada’s best newspaper, The Globe and Mail. I get to cover a Royal Tour, following Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip across Canada for two weeks, a Quebec election and stories from profiling a female prison warden to a series on re-using disposable medical supplies. But it’s a mean, tough, elbows-out newsroom and after 2.5 years I’m burned out and need a break. A friend helps me win my next job.


I move to Montreal to become a feature writer for the Montreal Gazette. I meet my first husband, an American in his final year of medical school at McGill. I love my spectacular top-floor apartment in a gorgeous 1930s downtown building, with two bedrooms, a working fireplace and tall windows. Nicest place I’ve ever lived. But I didn’t love the Gazette and I really hated the ferocity and length of a Montreal winter.


Unbelievable luck — I get an H1-B visa to work for three months in Hanover, NH as an editor, in the exact place my first husband (not yet my fiance) is in his medical residency at Dartmouth. I’m able to get a “green card” to live and work in the U.S, thanks to my mother’s birth in the U.S. and I move to Lebanon, NH. I’ve left behind career, income, friends. But, pre-Internet, locals are so unfriendly I can barely believe it. I usually make friends easily and quickly. We’re broke and my boyfriend is exhausted all the time, if he’s even home. This makes for the roughest experience I’ve had in many years.


We move to New York, to a suburban town where we buy an apartment that needs renovation we can’t afford. It takes me six months of cold calls, and a lucky New York Times’ job ad, to get my first job, as a senior editor at a monthly magazine focused on global news — saved by my ability to speak French and Spanish. We know no one.


I quit that job, and get married, albeit with very serious doubts about whether it will last, no matter how hard I’m willing to work at it. My family wants nothing to do with me and I’ve already had the best jobs in my industry in Toronto and Montreal. Not a lot of options. After barely two years, my husband walks out and re-marries someone from his workplace.


Chaos. I get divorced. I have a few staff jobs, but they don’t last. I had alimony, but it ends. I start online dating and meet a con man through a newspaper ad, who is ruthless and vicious and terrifies me. I waste four months of my life with him, trying to get him arrested and charged, but give up. I am burned out. I am lonely. I am struggling financially.  In 1998 I fly, on my dime, all the way to Australia and New Zealand, hoping to write and sell my first book, a narrative of the women’s boat in that year’s round-the-world Whitbread (now Volvo) Yacht Race. But they blow me off when I get there…so I have a great but very expensive and unplanned vacation alone.


Phew. I meet Jose, now my husband, in March. Finally, life starts to become happy again.


Have you had a rough decade?

Or one (maybe several) filled with joy and accomplishment?

11 thoughts on “Which was your best decade? Worst?

  1. The 1990s were a nightmare starting from 1991 when my dad died suddenly of a heart attack. It all went downhill from there and lasted a decade. My two favorite decades, believe it or not, were the 1960s (a happy childhood in the Toronto burbs) and the 1970s. I know, it’s a long time ago but I miss those decades and am very nostalgic. The 21st century so far? Drek. I really want to retire in a few years to an island.

    1. That must have been a terrible shock. It’s comforting to hear, though, that others have been through a long tunnel of UGHHHHHHHHH….I think you get so completely thrown off your stride that it affects everything. I had a lot of minor car accidents in the 90s (and even had to settle a clearly fraudulent lawsuit) and I know I was miserable and lonely and distracted.

      I have happy memories of my Toronto childhood/teen years in the same time period. I think Toronto, then, was quite a lovely place to grow up (if your family wasn’t struggling.)

      I am so utterly fed up with current events — racism, terrorism, political chicanery and lies — I can barely tolerate it.

      Which island?!

      A good Toronto friend has been on the wait list for one of the Islands there and I am envious. I think it would be idyllic, certainly in summer and fall.

      1. Gabriola Island, off the coast of Vancouver. A friend of a friend lives there and he just loves it. A real island community, older people, artistic types. I’m planning to fly out to Vancouver next summer to check it all out.

  2. my life has truly been a roller coaster through the decades, though some contain milestones for me. I had my daughters in the 70s, was divorced in the 80s and found my own voice at last but was also dirt poor, all worth it. began and finished college 6 years later, changed careers and grad school in the late 90s, became a teacher in 2000, and life began to smooth out. I’ve been working towards my next phase and will keep you posted -)

  3. lexc13

    Music wise I’m stuck in the 90’s. I feel like most decades have been a fair mix of good and bad. Only in my 30’s though so hoping someday I’ll have one decade of just awesome.

  4. Best decade was my 20’s. I worked my dream job as a State Editor for United Press International, opened a business, got married, bought a motorcycle. Worst decade? My 40’s. My mother died of cancer, my sister got MS, I got cancer, and I lost two of the best dogs who ever roamed the face of the earth. I’ll be 53 next month. I measure my life in single years rather than decades now, and appreciate my best times on a daily basis.

    1. Thanks for this…That was a rough rough time to get through and it certainly does change your perspective. I’m glad you are healthy and hope for many more years.

      But, I too, don’t now count on decades. That confidence is gone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s