I’ve been participating in the OneWord 365 community for several years now, and I’m always a little surprised to look back at the unexpected ways in which one little word has affected my life every year. If you’re not familiar with the OneWord 365 concept, the general idea is that instead of making New Year’s “resolutions,” you simply choose a word that is meaningful to you, and spend time throughout the year reflecting on that word. I love the tag line on the OneWord 365 website: “Go where it takes you. Be who it makes you.” That’s exactly what happens. Your word can take you to sometimes unexpected places, and if you let it, it can change you.
Over the years, I’ve chosen some pretty brave words: compassion, freedom, happiness, and – most recently – fight. When I chose “fight” last year, it was in some ways an act of defiance against circumstances that were outside of my control and the many negative ways in which I’d allowed those circumstances to affect me. I felt … lost, for lack of a better way to explain it, and I think in a lot of ways that word is pretty accurate. I felt directionless, purposeless, discouraged, and very un-Happy – I was just not myself anymore, and I wanted so much to feel like me again that I decided there was nothing left to do but fight for it – whatever that would look like. So I threw a few songs that inspired me into a playlist on Spotify and leaned into my word, wondering what would happen.
My journey with that word took me down some unexpected paths. I stopped going to church on Sundays – which is something I would have never chosen to do on my own – but it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I could have made. In leaving the Church for awhile, I’ve been able to not only re-discover how very much I love her – but to find a new freedom in no longer being bound by the sometimes unreasonable and unhealthy expectations that had crept into the ways I’d been taught to think about church. It’s still not quite time to go back yet, but out here in the wilderness, I’ve regained some perspective and found a bit of healing – and a few kindred spirits as well. Not all of my IRL friends have really understood this piece of my journey, and a handful of those who refused to try are no longer people I count as friends, which is unfortunate – but even in the loss of those friendships, I’ve actually learned some valuable lessons.
One of the things I learned is that while I do think I’ve made a lot of progress in finding my voice over the past few years (and even using it on occasion), I can still be too concerned with what other people think. As a result of someone’s negative reaction to something I’d written, I ended up having a series of great conversations with other friends, who collectively were able to help me realize that this blog has seen a series of evolutions over the years, and that each one has happened because I’ve changed – but that not everyone who reads my blog will necessarily understand that, nor will they necessarily understand that what I write here isn’t the full summation of everything I think.
I can’t control the baggage that people bring with them to my blog. I can’t control their perceptions of me or the ways in which their own experiences might inadvertently skew their perspectives on what I have to say. All I can do is write as truthfully, authentically, and genuinely as I can, and trust that when I feel led to write something, there’s a reason for it, whether I know what it is or not. If people disagree or don’t understand, that’s okay. The only opinion that really matters is God’s and if I can click publish on a post with a clear conscience, then it doesn’t actually matter if someone doesn’t like it. I’m blessed beyond measure to live in a country where women can have a voice, and where our freedom of speech is protected by the Constitution – where it’s actually alright to say what I think.
I never would have denied that to be true, but coming to the realization that I still care too much about the opinions of others was a really positive step towards feeling more like myself again. I mean, it’s kind of hard to be yourself when you’re trying to be who you think someone else thinks you should be at the same time.
So as we head into this new year, may God give us all the courage to become the best versions of ourselves, and the courage to fight for the things that are truly worth it.
Happy New Year, friends!
"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." —Fred Rogers via @momentumdash
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"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Einstein