The Journey of a Year

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In November/December 2012, I read several articles (many sent to me by various friends, others randomly) about rest/self-care/sabbaticals. By the 4th or 5th article in, I remember thinking that this was too coincidental. I started thinking about the concept of rest, and how it could be incorporated into this crazy graduate life we were living. Everyone that knows me knows that being still is not my forte. I like to make lists. I like to check things off said lists. I like to be busy. I like Excel. I like to be challenged. I like to be around people. I like to work on lots of projects. I like to read books. Translation: I. Never. Stop.

In that late December, the dots finally connected. A friend of mine from Florida posted on Facebook information about this site: My One Word, then asked her friends what their one word would be for 2013. I started to read through the comments, and 56 comments later, I realized what my word should be.

For those of you that don’t know about this site, here’s the basic cliff notes:

If you’re like most people, each January goes something like this: You choose a problematic behavior that has plagued you for years and vow to reverse it. In fact, you can probably think of two or three undesirable habits—make that four or five.

Thus begins the litany of imperfections to be perfected commonly known as “New Year’s Resolutions.” All of which are typically off your radar by February.

“My One Word” is an experiment designed to move you beyond this cycle. The challenge is simple: lose the long list of changes you want to make this year and instead pick ONE WORD.

This process provides clarity by taking all your big plans for life change and narrowing them down into a single focus. Just one word that centers on your character and creates a vision for your future. So, we invite you to join us and pick one word for the next twelve months. 

It should be noted that I’m not really into New Year’s resolutions. I loved (and still do) to set outlandish goals or targets that I was more than certain could not be reached in one year. It was (and still is!) fun to look back to see if I actually achieved any of them.

But the concept of one word to describe my year? I loved this idea. I loved that literally one word would and could define not only a year of my life, but also the activities I was involved in, bringing focus and clarity to whatever season I was living.

It would make the things I said ‘yes’ to much sweeter, and the things I said ‘no’ to much easier to let go.

I spent a lot of time over that Christmas break doing a lot of reflection on 2012; what it meant for me emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Even though the year ended on a good note, the only word I can use to describe that year was ‘loss’. As I came up on the first anniversaries of my Mom’s cancer diagnosis and my miscarriage, I felt like I entered another season of mourning, although it was not the raw, gaping wound that it was the previous year. I knew that it was part of the grieving process – c’mon now, I was a psych major in college- but I also knew, if I’m honest, I had not allowed myself time to completely heal- this is strictly in the emotional/spiritual sense – because that would call for me to Rest. And since I don’t sit still very well, any kind of healing would be difficult.

So, I dubbed 2013 a year of Rest for me. I had absolutely no idea what it would look like, as it was a definition in progress, but knew it would not involve me lying around all the time on a couch eating chocolate and drinking wine, even though that was a terrific thought. :) It had to be something more uniquely attuned to my personality and the way God designed me.

The very first two things I did identify that needed to be answered:

1. I had to ask myself why I was so afraid to be still and silent. I knew only I could answer that question.

My answer? Staying busy was an avoidance therapy, a place I visited when I didn’t want to address potential emotional issues in front of me. When I realized that, full healing could begin.

2. Could I do this alone? No, I could not.

I decided then to email some friends for help. I sent the email to 30 friends and family members, and asked them to keep me accountable. That might seem excessive to some, but I was intentional about who I asked. I selfishly chose friends that lived in Oxford and Orlando who were part of my graduate journey; friends and mentors from previous cities and walks of life; family that was far away. I asked them to partner with me as I began, asking for prayer (or good thoughts and wishes if prayer wasn’t their thing) so that all my decisions for that year would be clear and focused, completely surrounding the word Rest. I also gave them permission to ask me at any time if I was resting, knowing full well I would and could easily slip back into my busy ways.

I did ask one thing of them – to send me their word for that coming year. It allowed me to reciprocate in both prayers and good wishes, and asking them the same question.

I had no idea who would participate, or if everyone would think I was a rambling idiot, but their responses were astonishing. These are some of the many words I received:

Yes.

No.

Anticipation.

Peace.

Live.

Discipline.

Trust.

Purpose.

Love.

I saved them all in an excel spreadsheet, and agreed to journey with them over the coming year, as they lived their words.

So, what happened?

This one word journey was a definite life-changer for me. I think my friends would say the same thing. It is something I intend to do every year going forward. As I sit in early January 2014, reflecting on 2013, I’m grateful I put aside time to Rest last year. In an ironic twist, it ended up being the busiest year we’ve ever had in the graduate journey. We went through a myriad of changes that I didn’t know we would be going through as we headed into 2013: new jobs in a new city, new house, new nursery school for our son, new community, new church, new everything! I think if I hadn’t given myself that space to heal, I wouldn’t have been emotionally or spiritually ready for those changes.

This past year also gave me the space to dream again. It’s amazing what happens when you sit still. I didn’t realize the constant busyness was stifling my creativity. I said no to a lot of things (but not all) that I would have loved to do. My friends were very respectful of my ‘no’ decisions, which I appreciated immensely.

I also learned to accept where I was in life. My good friend, Betsy, always quoted Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quip – “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Let’s be honest, graduate life can kick you when you’re down, and I was spending far too much time being jealous and wishing my life were better like so-and-so, and not living in the present moment that I’d been given. When I started to accept that this was my current season of life, I found joy and peace in the midst of my designated rest. That was a bonus.

My word for 2014? Hope. I love the definition of hope: state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or in the world at large.

I have so many hopes and dreams for myself, and for my family as we’ve entered into a new season of life. I am relishing in the hope of seeing those dreams (all or some) fulfilled this year.

What would your word be for 2014?

Maybe you’re in the middle of graduate life. Maybe you’re at the end of graduate life and starting a new season, like me. Or, maybe you’re just at the beginning. Wherever you are, I challenge you to pick a word to shape your year. Maybe your word is perseverance, as you trawl through another graduate year. Maybe your word is community, as you seek to bond with others around you. Maybe your word is peace. Whatever you choose, live it for the next year. And if you feel like sharing your word for 2014, please put in the comments below, as we’d love to see what you word would be!

From my heart to yours,

~Mandy

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5 thoughts on “The Journey of a Year

  1. Love, love, love this post!! Thank you for the motivation to gear up for 2014 with a word of my own. I’ll keep you posted on what it is :)

  2. What a wonderful post. I too am guilty of keeping busy to avoid thinking about less-than-ideal situations, and of being jealous of others’ lives instead of embracing my own, and now that I’m aware of it I can work on changing.

  3. Pingback: Of New Year’s Resolutions and One Word | the graduate wife

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