I used to be really big on New Year's Resolutions. Like everybody else who ever lived, I totally bought into the whole "new year, new me" phenomenon. And, like everybody else, I was usually a "new me" for approximately 3 weeks. By February, I was back to the "old me", and thoroughly frustrated.
A few years ago, I realized how vicious this cycle is. We choose a relatively arbitrary date and look at it as a reinvention, a renewal of ourselves. We make ambitious goals (usually lacking the necessary plan to achieve them), and then immediately are disappointed when we fail to meet impossible standards. As someone who has struggled with my weight, my mental health, my success (or, uh, lack thereof), and myriad other aspects of my life, I understand this intimately. I've felt the jubilance of a new year where things will be different and better, and the exhausted frustration when things turn out....pretty much the same as the year before.
So I decided to make a change. Instead of making resolutions I inevitably would fail to keep, I decided to choose a theme for each year. This theme is a word (or phrase) that I want to have at the forefront of my mind and my decision making throughout the year, but isn't a stark, black or white failure or success. In 2019, after a year of physical and mental health struggles, I chose the word nourish. I spent the year (mostly) working to nourish my mind, body, and soul, to help myself reach a healthy and happy place.
In 2020, my word was balance (lol). Suspend your disbelief for a moment and think back to this time last year in the U.S. - we could go outside, I actually wore heels, and my boyfriend and I had monthly movie dates. I'd started a new job a few months previously, was a full time grad student, and was entering into the development and publishing phase of Summer Twilight. Balance seemed like a good thing to try and uphold, to channel, to achieve.
As with all things in 2020, life went sideways. In retrospect, however, I'm proud of the balance I found. I discovered a joy in working from home, and the flexibility it afforded me (noting that I am incredibly privileged to have this opportunity, which I strive to not take for granted every day). I managed to publish a book, and to pre-sell over 200 copies - which I still have to pinch myself to believe. I got engaged, managed a health challenge (mostly, anyway), and adjusted well to a management role on a high-tempo work project. While it certainly wasn't the year I expected, I think the concept of balance helped me remember to prioritize what is important, to take breaks (occasionally...), and to cherish the moments I have with the people I love.
The Theme of 2021: Growth
Over the past few days, I've been reflecting on a good word for 2021. One of the challenges I encountered last year was struggling to feel as though I was making progress - things felt so fluid and unpredictable that I felt like I was constantly starting back at the bottom of the mountain, trying desperately to reach the summit.
I'm a very type A person (subtle, I know), and consequently when I feel stagnant I really struggle. My mental health takes a nosedive, and I get inextricably stressed by the smallest things (I know, my fiancé is a lucky guy). Even though I had many opportunities to achieve and learn in 2020, I didn't feel like I did. It's like any big journey - after you've lost 100 pounds, it's easy to look back and compare your before and after pictures. Day-to-day, the changes are so small they are had to appreciate.
So for 2021, I want to sink into that journey. I want to embrace the idea of growing constantly, rather than simply achieving an end state (a difficult challenge for someone who loves checklists as much as I do). I know already I will experience growth in all aspects of my life (it is human nature, after all), and I want to appreciate that momentum with intention and attention to detail.
There are many ways I see the concept of growth playing out in 2021, including:
I am confident there will be ups and downs along the way, but I am excited to start growing. Follow along this year to see the journey (every challenging and rewarding piece of it)! I can't wait to hear what you think, and to share these moments with you. Let us drown together in intentional, intricate detail to appreciate the journey, rather than simply check another box.
Bridget is the author of Summer Twilight, available for purchase now!