Last year I decided to ditch my yearly New Years Resolutions and instead choose a “word of the year.” I’ll be honest… it felt a bit “woo-woo” to me. But that was also before 2018 happened. And believe it or not, I’m more “woo-woo” now then I’ve been. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that I set a word of the year instead of setting New Years Resolutions with every intention of writing a blog post at the end of this year stating it a failure. *Side note — it’s been proven that most resolutions are worthless to the person setting it because of the lack of context and smart planning. Search “Ditch New Years Resolutions” in Google and watch your screen fill up with post after post.*
Guess what? IT WAS AN EPIC SUCCESS.
I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything (*toot toot*) but I KILLED my word of the year. Massacred it. Did I have some slip-ups and some obstacles? Of course. But as I sit here writing this post today, I find myself stupidly proud of myself.
If you need a refresher, here’s the blog post about my word of the year. [Spoiler Alert: The word I chose was: Intentional]
I think it’s safe to say that this has been one of the most influential and important years of my life thus far. There were some big things, but mostly, so much of what made this a great year for me were the things that happened internally. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard family members exclaim, “You seem so different!” or “You seem really happy” and not because of some false narrative that lives on social media. They see it because I am those things. And when you change so radically, it’s not hard for others to pick up on it. So while 2018 might not be the year that I look back on because of so many epic achievements or wins — it’ll be the year I look back on and know how much of a change I went through.
Why am I telling you this? Because I think it’s important to know how my year influenced all of my planning for 2019. We are, after all, evolutionary creatures. I didn’t have an epic year just to stay stagnant.
That’s why my word of the year is something I desperately need to keep at the top of my priorities and reflect on every. single. day. I truly believe it’s the key to living a healthier and more robust life. And unlike most people, I do believe that it exists. Drum roll please…
That’s right. Balance. It’s such a simple word, but it causes so much anxiety. I mean, when we’re faced with constant “hustle porn” articles or “#fromdawntodusk” style Insta pics — we’re led to believe that balance doesn’t exist. That it’s a fallacy. In fact, some even go as far as to say that if you do have balance in your life — you’re not committed enough… you’re not working hard enough, you’re not [insert any negative adjective here]. But I think it’s bullshit, really.
I’ve watched too many people (and experienced it myself) burn out from trying to abide by the so-called “hustling rules.” I’ve watched healthy people become sick and reliant on drugs and other numbing substances to get through the mess they’ve put themselves in by trying to be someone society thinks they should be.
Yeah, I’ll pass on that shit.
Balance is a lot like the most common-sense advice to losing weight: moderation.
Do you really have to eat the whole pizza at once (aka, do you really have to spend 15 hours on that blog post, social media, answering emails?).
Nah. But you choose to do it anyway.
Balance IS moderation for your life. I know there are people reading this right now who are dismissing my approach and saying things like, “balance is a myth!” or “but you don’t have kids!” or “ha, you have the luxury of balance.”
To which I say: You’re both right and wrong.
I don’t have kids. But I have the same number of hours in the day as someone with kids. I would wager a guess that I have the same amount (just different) responsibilities/hobbies/obligations as those with kids. And regardless of whether or not a person has kids or not, we ALL possess the same amount of time to contribute (or not) to the important areas of our lives.
I do have to acknowledge my privilege here. As a straight, white, middle-class woman in a relationship with someone who has a steady career and is supportive of my lifestyle — I do have the luxury of figuring out and finding balance. That doesn’t mean it is or will be easy. It doesn’t mean I don’t struggle like everyone else. Yes, I have the luxury of discovering this about myself, but that doesn’t mean shit unless I do something about it. And that’s where the hard work comes in. I don’t get a free pass just because I “discovered that balance is the answer.” I have to execute it, and that puts me right back at the ground level with everyone else.
So how do I feel about my word of the year for 2019?
To be honest, I’m terrified. I so badly want to have another year like this one. I don’t need more money or more attention or more… anything. What I need is to continue to feel empowered by who I am and who I’m becoming. And yes, I believe that feeds directly into balance.
Balancing my work, my side-jobs, my passions, my family and friends, my obligations, etc are all part of self-empowerment. Knowing that I’m not boxed into ONE kind of life or job or role is paramount to my survival and to have a good life.
For posterity sake, I wanted to recap a few things that happened in 2018 that have impacted who I am and what I’ll be doing in 2019:
Going from the backseat driver of my life to the actual driver. The decisions I make about my future, my perceptions, my everything are no longer dependent on others. They’re solely dependent on me.
Becoming a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach changed everything for me. I’ve talked about it a lot, but I would be remiss not to put it on this list as one of the most influential parts of 2018. It has set the tone for the rest of my life and I’m incredibly grateful for the experiences.
Discovering that I was not some freak of nature with commitment issues regarding my future saved my mental health and now informs everything I do. I wrote a post that seemed to resonate with quite a few people and I’m guessing that’s because there are more of us (multipotentialites) than anyone realized. For most of my life, I’ve tried to downplay my affinity for learning or for switching projects. For the longest time, I thought my interests and thoughts were hypocritical because how in the hell can a trauma survivor LOVE the horror genre? How can a fiction writer also want to learn how to code a website by herself? My life has been full of contradictions and up until the last year — I thought that made me different (in a bad way). But through acceptance, learning, and connection with other humans, I learned that I am different. But in a great way.
Confronting the hard truths about myself, my life and the emotions that come up for me. My M.O. is avoidance and compartmentalizing, but when you do that for your whole life, it comes back to bite you in the ass. 2018 was the year I started to confront those things I’d shoved down deep. I have a feeling 2019 is going to be an even harder one in regards to this.
Leaning into gratitude. I have found that this, by itself, is one of the most beautiful and influential recovery tools we all inherently have. It’s free. It’s easy once you learn how to do it properly. Most importantly — it works. Gratitude is part of my daily practice now — and it’s the ONLY daily practice I never skip over or forget to do. Not a day goes by where I don’t find a few things that I’m extremely grateful for. Some days, I can only muster up small and obvious things. Other days, I can probably list a 100 things I’m grateful for. But the constant practice has done a 180 for me and my life, and it’s something I will be continuing into 2019 and forever.
That last bullet point leads beautifully into one of my big projects for 2019. I hesitated to share it because what happens if I fail? What happens if I make this grand announcement and then fall flat on my face? Then I remembered one crucial thing: I’m human. If I fail… then I fail. I get back up and try it again.
So here are the details of my big 2019 project:
Once a week, I will be sending a card/postcard/letter/email to someone I’m grateful for. This might be someone close to me or it might be someone I admire. It might be someone who has inadvertently had an impact on my life, or it could be someone who has been a mentor of mine for years. The goal is to amp up the gratitude to not only improve my gratitude skills but to be the bright spot in someone else’s day.
I thought long and hard about this over the past few months. I could have just as easily donated money to a charity or volunteered my time at any various fundraiser/charity event. And I’m not saying I won’t still do those things, but this year, I had a yearning to impact lives in a more direct manner. Donating money and time to causes is incredibly generous, but I want to do more. I want to know that the time/money/energy I’m putting into something is happening to a real person in real time.
The beautiful thing about this project is that it doesn’t matter who the recipient is, what they do, where they live or how much they “need” help from others. Because at the end of the day, we all need to feel appreciated and loved. I would venture a guess that Brené Brown is just as delighted hearing from her fans as my mom is when she hears from me. We’re all humans which means when you strip away everything else — we all want the same things, no matter our circumstances. So for 52-ish weeks, I’ll be selecting a person I want to extend my gratitude to and hoping they are as delighted about receiving it as I am sending it.
Did you learn anything revolutionary about yourself in 2018? Are you taking any lessons learned into 2019? I’m genuinely curious what experiences other people are leaving 2018 with and what experiences are to come in 2019.