Since 2010, in lieu of New Year’s resolutions, I have chosen words to guide me for the year. In the start they were broader things like healthcare, money, relationships. Recently they’ve become more focused – realignment, growth, purpose. And with each word chosen, the universe delivered.
People generally love this idea. They ask me how I choose my word.
It takes months. It requires me to listen a lot. To observe what’s popping up in my life. To figure out what feels best in my gut. And to accept, without knowing specifics, that this word is going to be present in my life for a full twelve months.
They tell me I’m so lucky to actually get my words delivered upon.
They don’t realize how much self work it takes. That it takes bravery going into the year knowing that you’re going to be knocked on your ass to learn the lessons you’ve just asked for.
Every year, without fail, there’s been at least one major hit upside the head. It happens when you don’t listen, as tends to be my pattern. To truly learn a lesson, it rarely comes easily. Maybe it does to other people, but not to pigheaded people like me.
The year my word was healthcare, I went a full nine months (on top of the four I had already racked up) without health insurance. I have type 1 diabetes. That was a scary, pre-affordable care act time.
The year my word was wellness, I broke my ankle in three places three weeks into the year. It took two surgeries to get to where I am now, which still doesn’t translate to being able to consistently run. I didn’t walk for months. I learned that wellness is mental and requires extreme patience and kindness to yourself more than anything else.
The year my word was realignment, I had a health crash so severe that I ended up unemployed for three months and underemployed (read: not making nearly enough money to pay my bills) for most of the rest of the year. I dropped out of my Masters in Public Health program. I questioned myself almost every day, but it allowed me to realize what was important to me and set the stage for my further ability to come into my own.
The year my word was growth, I went through the most severe, heart wrenching pain I had ever been through – heartbreak after the sudden end of a four-year relationship. But I never would have spent months waking up at dawn to see the sunrise, writing morning pages religiously, diving headfirst into yoga, rediscovering my love of art and creativity, and gaining the intense connection I now have with energy and the universe without it.
This past year, my year of purpose, I moved to New York City, started working for JDRF – the organization that will eventually cure my chronic illness and is paying my way in the meantime – and wrote a book. It seems really amazing written down. It IS really amazing. But my work at JDRF is the hardest I’ve ever done. I still feel lost 80% of the time. And writing a book sent me into another health crash because I hadn’t learned how to chase my purpose while also balancing my own wellness. Sometimes you have to learn those lessons more than once. And I still struggle, knowing that to truly live my purpose I must find a way to balance my desire to connect with others with my need to preserve my own emotional, mental, and physical health. I’ve zeroed in on my purpose – that’s what I asked for. I still don’t fully know how to do it all yet.
When you choose a word, you have to choose it knowing that the universe is going to do anything it can to deliver, even if it means shoving you into uncomfortable places. It’s the only way to do it.
So here we are, weeks away from 2017, and it’s time for me to settle into my next word. Voice.
I’ve spent the last few months digging deep into my writing, but I still haven’t fully found my voice. I know it’s strong, but it’s not at its most effective yet. I love to speak and mentor, but I’ve not done much since college.
I know that writing about my health is helpful to others, but I don’t want to pigeon hole myself, and I don’t like the idea of only writing about being sick, even though I absolutely do want to write about it. And when I do write about chronic illness, I want it to always be from a genuine place.
I know that there is so much going on in the world that I have the potential to positively affect if my voice is clear and strong enough, but it will take an incredible amount of work, discipline, and perserverance to get there.
My book will publish through a larger publisher, and will therefore be in bookstores, in September of 2017. I know that there is a lot of groundwork for me to do between now and then, writing and connecting with other platforms and people that best serve the readers, creating more and more content to help.
Overall, I’m tired of my own laziness. I do so much to distract myself from writing and putting together content that can help – myself or others. I convince myself that I’ll do it later, and I’m over bullshitting myself.
So in 2017, my aim is to be consistent with my voice. To explore what it means. To constantly throw myself into situations that inspire me to dig deeper. To experience more art. To work with more people who are also finding their voice. To be constantly creating and surround myself with others who are too. To get published consistently and in a variety of places. To reach people. To dig into what it means to be me, with everything that I’ve been through and all that I can say because of it, and what kind of unique perspective I can possibly bring to such a saturated world.
And yes, I’m prepared for the lessons. I’m prepared to cry by myself when I get frustrated and lost. I’m prepared to accidentally (or willingly) piss people off with something I say and grapple with the guilt around it. Maybe prepared isn’t the word for any of it, but willing. I’m willing to go through the hard stuff to learn these lessons.
Warrior heart, on. Bravery, dug in to. Distractions, ready to be fought. Again and again and again until I get it.
And to all of the things I don’t know are coming, I accept you too. Maybe I’m not quite ready for you, but I will be.
If you’re looking for a word, meditate on it. Go somewhere quiet and write. Pose questions. Don’t force it. More precise words work better, I think. And then don’t just sit back and not think about it for the rest of the year. Make your word front and center. Keep writing about it. Make a vision board. Keep meditating on it. The details are not your responsibility; they’ll show up. But the intention lies wholly on your shoulders. These have been mine since I started, but I recommend not choosing yours based on someone else’s or the path you’ve seen them walk. This is for you, and for you alone.
2010: Healthcare • 2011: Money • 2012: Relationships • 2013: Wellness
2014: Realignment • 2015: Growth • 2016: Purpose • 2017: Voice