I learned about the concept of a ‘Word of the Year’ through writer Mari Andrew in her Out of the Blue newsletter a few weeks ago. Then, as what seems to happen when something catches one’s eye for the first time, I started to notice it mentioned elsewhere in quick succession: as a budding human interest piece in The New York Times, in conversation with a friend, even gently mocked by a self-professed word nerd within a clamorous sales email. (What’s your World of the Year, Erin?” the email began, before jumping mercilessly to an “LOL JOKES!” on the next line. I’d felt as I did when I gushed to a fellow bookworm about an author I admired, and they replied that they thought their writing was cheesy.)
Apparently, the introspective practice of picking and sticking to a word that might help guide you through the whims of a new year has been a very real thing for a very long time – long enough, anyway, for critics to denounce it as boring, shallow or saccharine. I tend to think otherwise, maybe because I’m fresh out from under a rock, or maybe because I too am drunk on January’s ‘New Year, New Me‘ energy, and am grabbing at an alternative to the impressive-but-near-impossible-to-stick-to list of New Year’s Resolutions.
See, I think a Word of the Year is a softer, more accessible approach to living the sort of life you aspire to in 2022. It is not a rigid, intimidating line over which there is an obvious crossing, leaving those who fall short open to disappointment and self-flagellation. Instead, a word can serve as a gentle reminder of or push in your desired direction, like the Pilates instructor who either doesn’t notice or care to tell you that you’re doing the exercise a little bit wrong, or who politely whispers in your ear what you might need to do instead. (In my case, learn my lefts from my rights.) Because, really, how many times would you return to Pilates only to be singled out every time you stick your left leg up when you were instructed to lift your right?
Not to mention, what do you miss when you’re laser-focussed on achieving your goals exactly as you had envisioned them?
Mari’s Word of the Year of 2022, the third now in a global pandemic, is ‘luscious’. Luscious, she explains, is a close cousin of the somewhat less evocative word ‘nourishing’, and, though similar in definition, moves much more delightfully around the tongue and through the lips. (Don’t underestimate a word’s sensory appeal, Mari says, when choosing one to champion your year; you’ll be more likely to stick to it for the entire twelve months, rather than leave it behind somewhere around March.)
For Mari, luscious evokes the sense of richness and vibrancy, inspiring in her the desire to make 2022 the year in which she mindfully seeks out and embraces all that makes her life so. She wants to feed her mind ‘meatier’ books and foreign films and colourful conversations and opinions; and to add a simple, and often costless, touch of lavishness to her everyday routines, like lighting a candle at bath times.
As for me, I’ve been trying on ‘Trust’ for the past few days. The problem is, though the steadfast, monosyllabic word provides a sense of calm and tranquillity, I find it a little bit boring. Plus, I wonder if it isn’t as stable as I’d like to think, infused with a false sense of certainty and control. Because, trust as we might, we can never be one hundred percent certain or in control of much in our lives. Essentially, we can only trust ourselves, because we can only control ourselves. But even that has limitations.
For example, I can ‘trust’ that I will do whatever it takes to achieve something, no matter how scary that something is. But what if I were to experience failure or setbacks when chasing that goal? What then? Do I give up? I suppose I could ‘trust’ that I’ll keep going no matter what, but this seems insipid and uninspiring to me. I want to find a word that makes me feel impassioned, but I also want one that can remind me of compassion when things get tough.
Hence, my Word of 2022 is EMBRACE.
To me, the word embrace embodies both passion and compassion: it can mean both an enthusiastic locking of lips with a lover, or a warm hug from a friend. It can mean to seize in the sense to ‘go after’ something, it can mean to hold on to something, to support, to comfort.
So, here’s how I want to embrace 2022.
I want to embrace the unfamiliar.
I want to dedicate each month to embracing something different, whether that’s a month of indulging in foreign films, learning about a specific period of history, or exploring the origins of a certain word. It doesn’t matter how many films or how many books or how many different periods of history I explore, as long as I’m embracing something different every month.
I want to embrace the familiar.
It is easy to let the days fall on each other without truly noticing the beauty within them: the clear blue sky, the frangipanis in springtime that fall softly like snow, the coffee left on the kitchen table by a loving boyfriend after you emerge from a morning shower. I want to embrace my normal, to realise how extraordinary that normal actually is. I know this sounds a little bit like gratitude, but I’m not concentrating so much on expressing my thanks, rather on observing and loving. I think the being thankful comes naturally after this, anyway, and removes any pressure or shame that I think being grateful can impress upon us, as though if we feel anything other than gratitude we’re ungrateful twats. I can appreciate the beauty of a stunning summer’s day while also feeling sad, and that’s perfectly okay. I’m allowed to feel sad.
I want to embrace failures.
Failures only mean I am trying to live the life I want, rather than safely existing in the life that was given to me. I want to embrace failures in my creative process, as I stumble towards my 60K-word story goal (I’m at 37K now!). I want to embrace failures in my own business, too, as I’m gradually understanding my strengths and expertise, and beginning to charge more for them and even teach others about them through an exciting new venture!
I want to embrace doing ‘nothing’.
I often cower in the face of free time, hurrying to fill it with anything that can assuage my guilt that I’m wasting time. Often, I think I must be learning or honing a skill or socialising with a friend to be making the most of my time here on earth. But I rarely do, unless forced (read: in a waiting room somewhere with a flat phone battery or in the shower), let my brain wander and do nothing. I want to embrace the benefits of doing nothing, of sinking into my brain’s many ideas and imaginings, and seeing what happens when I do. I want to embrace that saying that I see beautified in quotes on Instagram feeds: ‘the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time!’ (I’m not sure whom to credit for this quote, as it seems up for debate!)
I want to embrace myself more.
By this, I mean supporting myself and my uniqueness, my comforts and my loves. I think often we overlook our own needs or comforts, deeming them unnecessary or, like above, as simply a reckless and time-wasting indulgence. I would like to find an achievable routine of meditating, of trying out a new, nutritious meal every now and again, and indulging in my loves of reading, writing and learning German, while embracing that fear that I might suck, acknowledging that it’s okay to suck anyway.
I want to embrace my friendships around the globe
I have a best friend in Norway, a best friend in England, and a best friend across the country. It takes a little more effort to stay in touch when a text “What doing today?” can’t elicit an impromptu hang, but physical distance doesn’t have to mean emotional distance, and I know that the friends who I grew up with are worth showing up for and staying close to; these relationships are unique and utterly magical.
What is your Word of the Year?