Blog Post, Personal

My Word for 2018

Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, Zundert 1853–1890 Auvers-sur-Oise)
Road in Etten, 1881. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.774)

I noticed a trend this year, one that apparently has been around for some time but which I have either missed or ignored, wherein people choose one word to make their “word of the year.” The idea is to start the new year with a single focus, a word that can inspire a philosophical perspective, an emotional change, some kind of personal growth or achievement, etc. I decided, considering I’m continuing my stoic journey this year, and with much more focus and intention than I have given it in the past, this “word of the year” might be a beneficial opportunity.

My word for 2018 is: SEE. To see. To notice. To be attentive.

In 2018, I’m continuing a path that I began a few years ago, around my second year of doctoral studies, toward outward living; toward charity, kindness, and compassion, and away from non-essential distractions. This has been a very slow process for me, not helped at all by the tumultuous last couple of years. I have been wholly consumed by politics and global affairs, much of which I have very little control over but which has “demanded” my attention, my energy, my words, my time. I haven’t been able to see clearly enough how deeply all of this has influenced my mental, physical, and emotional health, and how little it has helped my relationships with other people (in some cases, it has actively hurt them).

So, in pursuing a much more intentional stoic course of study and commitment this year, I want to embrace this word, see, in a variety of ways, and allow it to help me achieve a stoic way of living, which is to say, a life free from unnecessary distractions and a perspective that allows my attention to be drawn only to those things over which I have control.

This year, I want to see my surroundings. I moved with my husband to a new state, a new region of the United States, four months ago. We have found time to explore some new-to-us things, and to take an adventure or two, but I want to do much more of this in the coming year. I want to put away my “smart” phone, to step away from social media, and engage with my new city, with a new community, and all the new goals and opportunities they might bring. There is, for example, a group in the area that meets weekly to discuss science and philosophy and art, and all sorts of interesting things. I located it before we even moved here, and yet every week goes by without my even attempting to drive over and sit in on a meeting. These are the sorts of opportunities I see as valuable, and so I want to begin engaging with them.

I want to see my husband more clearly, and help him see me more clearly as well. Again, stepping away from these digital devices and spending quality time together will go a long way in helping us do this. I want to manage this, too, in a budget-conscious way and find ways for us to be together without the stress and strain of financial burdens. Part of stoicism is breaking free from financial debts, as well as embracing what is good for me.

To that last point, I want to see ways of politely but effectively saying “No” to what I do not want to do, and see ways of saying “Yes” to those things that I do. I am often mistaking these two things and, instead of embracing the things I am genuinely interested in, the things that will help me live a better and richer life, and become a better person, I say “Yes” to the things I think I should do, whether because I’m worried about what people will think of me if I say no, or of disappointing someone, or of looking bad at work. I hope to see more clearly the paths that will lead to “Yes” and to accept those that are truly right for me. This also means saying “No” when I already have enough to do.

“How many have laid waste to your life when you weren’t aware of what you were losing, how much was wasted in pointless grief, foolish joy, greedy desire, and social amusements — how little of your own was left to you. You will realize you are dying before your time!” — Seneca, “On the Brevity of Life,” 3.3b

I want to see the people in my life for who they are, not for the ideals I hold them to, and then respond accordingly. This means seeing my family, friends, and colleagues more clearly and completely, and either deciding to accept them without judgment or to move on from relationships that are not positive ones. This is a path I began to take years ago as well, and most of the negative influences have, I think, been removed; but I also want to be an authentic friend, brother, son, cousin, uncle to those I am keeping in my life, which means seeing who these people are, truly, and how they affect me, and allowing myself to be seen by them.

Finally, I want to see my priorities clearly and objectively. I want to learn how to acknowledge the difficulties in front of me so that I can better plan how to accomplish what I want to accomplish and achieve what I want to achieve. To this end, I have cut my reading goal for this year nearly in half, so that I can instead spend more time writing. I will be working on major projects, such as ongoing preparations (a years’ long project) for academic tenure; writing, preparing, and submitting work for publication; and attending academic conferences for professional development, personal fulfilment, and networking. I need to see how important these activities are to me and begin a true pursuit of them, rather than limiting myself to a perpetual state of “eventually.”

We are just a few days into the new year, but already I have noticed a distinct change in my perspectives. I hope seeing my plans and goals, strengths and weaknesses, successes and struggles, more clearly will help me to grow as a person, a writer, a teacher, a spouse, a friend. This might sometimes mean accepting that I am not who I thought I was to someone else, that I cannot always be what and whom everyone wants me to be, and that I will sometimes be a disappointment. Again, over others’ perceptions, I have little control, and so I need to let that go in order to focus on the things that I actually can do, and the things that will make my daily life richer and more meaningful, and perhaps even more peaceful.

Most importantly, as I work my way slowly through stoic readings, I plan to incorporate daily reflective writing; and as I work my way slowly through a literary reading of the bible, I plan to incorporate weekly and monthly reflective writing as well. In addition, I am keeping a personal journal and will be writing on the blog, as well as working on my fiction and non-fiction. My final hope in all of these writing exercises is that I will begin to see myself more clearly. I ask my students to see their progress through reflective journaling about their own work over the course of a semester; it is time that I see my own forward—and backward—motion in the same way.

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20 thoughts on “My Word for 2018

  1. My son’s 6th grade ELA class is doing this – he chose the word ‘fire’. He says it’s a metaphor to remember to warm others up and be a light as a leader. (Thoughts I was not having at 11). I love the idea to focus on a word like this, and you’ve chosen a great one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a good idea. It originated with Sheila of Book Journey blog after her son died in an accident. It helped her with her grief. I have chosen the word Silence for the past three years. It has taken me that long to learn to hold my tongue when I am around people who view the world differently than I do and keeps me from stressing on the current political figures in Australia and America. I think ‘See’ is a great choice. I try to see when I do my photo walks. Stick with it, I find it works, oops there I go putting my thoughts onto others. Haha

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My word that I took as my own many, many years ago was HOPE. It has got me through so many good times and bad times and all those ones inbetween. At different times though, other words have been added on to get me through a particular phase. I did a big post about this last year and ended up choosing GRACE as my word for 2017 to get me through the kids finishing school phase that we are in the middle of right now.

    Needless to say, I don’t feel that I did very well with grace…and SEEing your post reminded me that I was going to give some time to working out why, what, how….

    Your word sounds perfect for you Adam. I’ve certainly been enjoying your Insta photos as you SEE your new environment.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. I enjoyed reading your thoughts and I like this idea. Your word reminds me of my #1 favorite quote from my 2017 year long read of Thoreau’s Walden. “Will you be a reader, a student merely, or a seer?”
    That for me was the quote of quotes, the quest of quests, and perhaps my biggest takeaway from the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great word for the years to come. Somehow we tend not to stop and see these days. Life goes on in such a speed it is difficult to keep up. We are also reflecting on how to enjoy the moment and see what is in front of us. The old romans put it down nicely, Carpe Diem!
    I will also try to see more. Being quite down last year I choose Sparkle to give me a hint how I should live. It did not work out, but hopefully I can stop, see and make life sparkle for others and for me this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I also joined in with this for the first time this year. My word is Relish which comes from the fact that the last two years I have been tackling a serious health issue so had to put many plans on hold. Now I’m through all that I want to embrace life to the maximum. I didn’t give anywhere as much thought to my word as you have however so reading how you plan to take your word into active use has encouraged me to revisit my plans. Thanks for the nudge.

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  7. Pingback: Acknowledgments: January 2018 – Another Book Blog

  8. The one word goal is something I’ve been doing a while now but didn’t realize it was trend. I started doing it at a tough time in my life, so it helped me to better focus on what I wanted to get done.
    All the best in your goal to See in 2018.
    Being attentive is something a lot of us need to work on, including myself.

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