Looking Forward in 2023
I've chosen my word for the new year
In Accepting the Unexpected, I step away from writing about travel to comment on the bigger journey of life. While the topics may vary, the central theme is always the same: living life means learning to deal with the unexpected.
There are a lot of practices for the start of a new year. It’s not hard to see why. We live in an age of constant self-improvement. We aren’t supposed to be happy with our bodies or our finances or the way our lives are going and so the start of a new calendar means a clean slate. If there is ever a time to turn everything around, it is on January 1.
For a few years, I did just that. I stopped making resolutions years ago, but I wrote down a list of goals for the coming year. They were aspirational but achievable (if life didn’t get in the way) and I felt pretty good about them. The problem with them, as with all goals we set for ourselves, is that they often ignored the realities of a life that just happens to us.
That is when I started the practice of selecting a word for the coming year.
The first time I chose a word for a year was in 2020. Months before a global pandemic took over and we experienced shutdowns and many of our lives were changed forever, I chose the word “hope.” In 2021, less than a month before our lives were turned upside down, I chose the word “light.” Last year, just days before I would come down with COVID, I chose the word “heal.”
And each year, the irony has not been lost on me.
But the irony has not kept me from my yearly selection of a new word for each year. It’s a practice I appreciate because it really does take the pressure off of list and goal making for the year. There are no resolutions to keep. I don’t have a checklist that I need to complete in twelve months. There isn’t the fear of failure because I didn’t accomplish everything that I set out to accomplish by the end of the calendar year.
Instead, when I choose a word for the coming year, I’m selecting a posture for how I’m going to approach the next twelve months. Does that posture come with goals? Of course. Goal setting is how we fulfill our dreams and recover from the curveballs.
Even though I started the year with COVID, 2022 was a year of significant healing for me. I rediscovered a love for the profession that I dedicated myself to over 20 years ago. We went to Hawaii and I fell in love with the 50th state and almost didn’t come home. I got in all of my doctor appointments for the year and even had my first mammogram. (Although I am still working on finding a therapist.) We went back to Texas and I not only survived the trip but felt good about our return to a place that was home for six years.
2022 was most certainly a year of healing.
For 2023 I have chosen the word “forward.” It is a word that encompasses many of the other words from past years but takes it a step further. It is a word that implies goal setting (and there is some of that), but it means that I want to keep looking to the future instead of constantly looking back. I believe in the importance of history, of knowing and reflecting on our past so we can better understand our present and heal for a better future. But a better future only happens if you decide to take that knowledge and move forward with it, correcting the mistakes made and taking risks, even if that means making different mistakes along the way.
For this year, moving forward means publishing my book in January. (More updates on that in the coming weeks.) It means growing this newsletter and the community here. It means facing the challenges of education in 2023 and beyond and finding ways to do better. It means figuring out next steps forand working with my partner to dream big and make things happen. It means sitting down to finish my camping memoir and figuring out how to submit to publishers. It means getting back to keeping a budget so we can do all of the things we want to do with our house. It means finally going to therapy.
None of these action items have a start or end date. None of them require arbitrary success by the end of 2023. They just require that I keep moving forward, even if sometimes that means I’ll be taking one step forward and two steps back.
And in December of 2023, we’ll see where this next leg of the journey took me.
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