Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and I am definitely not alone in finding myself in a place of reflection and anticipation heading into 2021. I suspect most of us are ready to see this particular year come to an end with the hope of brighter days ahead. My social media feed is currently filled as it is every December with end of year book lists, posts about resolutions being made, and friends sharing about intentions being set. A few weeks ago while scrolling I saw the graphic pictured below with the heading, “First four words you see are your focus for 2021.” I typically roll my eyes at these types of posts since I usually spot words like “money” that sound more like a fortune cookie to me than anything of meaningful substance. But I also can’t resist the pull of these kind of exercises, so I quickly scanned and noted the four words that stuck out to me first. I saw, in this order, gratitude, family, creation, and change.
Gratitude and family immediately resonated because these are the two things that have kept me sane and purposeful over the past nine months during the pandemic. Never before have I been more grateful for, focused on, and in tune with my family. Two-hundred eighty days spent having extended face to face interactions with just the three other people who live in my house has brought a level of connection that we didn’t have as a family a year ago. Without the circumstances of working and schooling from home, we might never have had the opportunity to explore aspects of our family dynamics that we’ve been able to this year. Depending on the month (or even the day), that fact has had both its positive and negative sides. I’m thankful that we’re ending the year on a high note having successfully navigated the more difficult episodes we faced in 2020. We look back over the past twelve months and think, “Whoa, we have been through A LOT!”
In the two or three weeks since spotting those four focus words for 2021, I have found myself thinking a great deal about the latter two words: creation and change. Creation immediately sparked all kinds of thoughts about my resolutions for the past several years. The desire to create through writing has been inside me for a long time. I think it was 2018 when I selected the word “intentional” to be my word for the year, and I determined that it would be the year that I would finally write a book. As with so many resolutions, that didn’t happen. Last year I moved a step closer to manifesting my writing intentions by starting this blog as a birthday gift to myself. I set a plan of writing once a week, and I actually got off to a decent start. I might have continued if not for an ill-timed global pandemic that descended upon us all less than a month after my debut post.
I choose to give myself grace about not keeping my commitment to myself with the weekly blogging effort in a year like 2020. After all, I had to learn how to teach in an entirely new way with the unanticipated dawn of distance learning. The fact that remote teaching has required enormous amounts of resourcefulness, patience, and determination has left me feeling pretty accomplished in the creativity department, regardless of the months where I didn’t once touch my blog. It’s all good. No regrets and no shame here. Yet the urge to create remains strong. Will this new year end up being another one where my goals get pushed aside and are once again deferred?
That brings me to change.
The idea of change conjures so many thoughts and emotions. On one hand, change is something I feel like I have had quite enough of over the course of this year. What didn’t change in 2020? We changed the way we go about doing pretty much everything, whether we have liked it or not. Many of us can’t wait for a return to “normal” and less of this uninvited change that has been so challenging.
One of the great lessons that 2020 has impressed upon me is how precious time is in our lives. Even in a year when activities on the calendar were abruptly cancelled and free time was suddenly ample, filling the time meaningfully has weighed heavily on my mind. How am I using this time I have been given? How is the way I spend my time shaping me? How is the content I am consuming influencing me and my perspectives?
If you saw The Social Dilemma on Netflix these might be questions you have also found yourself asking as they relate to time spent on social media. Shortly after viewing the documentary, I recall looking at my weekly data usage for the first time and being shocked at the amount of time I spent scrolling on social media. This awareness gave me pause. The sheer amount of time expended, not to mention the ramifications of the time spent, has continued to concern me.
So how does this all relate to my word change? Well, I’m not going to call this a resolution exactly, but I am setting out to make some changes heading into this new year. In service of gratitude, family, creation, and change, I want to clear a path for growth and substance in this new year. It became clear to me that social media no longer fits in a picture of meaningfully using the time to which I’ve been entrusted. At least not for now. What kinds of things could I accomplish in the absence of that time suck?
I began to consider all the things I have wanted but “haven’t had the time for.” Things like writing that book (or blog entries), learning Spanish, and writing letters to friends (this is a lifelong pastime that has brought great joy and all but completely stopped with the emergence of Facebook). I miss letter writing! In the past two weeks as I’ve been considering changes I might make, I have received two multiple-page, hand written letters from longtime friends. There is nothing like personal correspondence like that. The internet has nothing on an actual letter. The realization that, for me, social media replaced a treasured method of maintaining relationships has been somewhat sobering. Did I trade deeper personal connection with knowing what my friend in New Hampshire ate for lunch today via the picture they posted? I feel like reliance on Facebook has made me lazy in some of the relationships that have mattered most in my life. I miss more personal forms of communication and the thought that goes into them. Those letters arrived at just the right time to emphasize my desire for these needed adjustments I’d like to explore. No time seems better to begin than at the start of a new year.
So, maybe you will see more of me on the blog in 2021. I’m not sure what all I might be clearing the path for, exactly. Perhaps it will be more time spent here, but I welcome whatever the new year has in store for me in terms of creation and change. I am grateful for the lessons and growth experienced in 2020, even the parts that were difficult. I am heading into the new year with hope that better days lie ahead for us all, and I am purposing to be intentional about how I spend mine.
What will be your focus in 2021?