For the past few years I’ve spent the better part of December choosing a word for the year ahead. This process usually follows deep reflection, excessive journaling, and an emergency tarot pull or two. The word I choose is usually some combination of intention, motivation, and wishful thinking for the type of experiences I want to call in. Consider it an overthinker’s emotional action plan.
It turns out, I’m in good company because Oprah does this, too. When she does, she cautions that the downside of choosing a word of the year is that you can also call in the opposite or “shadow side” of the word as well. This is meant to show you the complete lesson of the word. I share that because my word for 2020, embrace, has been nothing but a lesson. It was meant to be a call to closeness, togetherness, and connection – oh, and more literal hugs. The irony of choosing this word in the year of COVID is not lost on me. Instead, I’ve been touring the shadow side of embrace – learning to drop my resistance, surrender, and remain open to the unknown. And while I am no longer able to get within six feet of those I want to hug, this year has been a masterclass in going with the flow.
Touché Oprah, touché.
I guess this is fitting because my journey through pregnancy this year wasn’t quite what I expected, either. As I shared in a previous piece, my partner and I spent years trying to get pregnant, going through fertility support, only to accidentally get pregnant once we gave up in the early days of the pandemic. When we embraced the new circumstances, we were able to move forward in our new reality.
While I am delighted with the outcome, a healthy pregnancy, I was admittedly hesitant to pick a word for 2021. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we never really know what the year ahead holds. This past year has been filled with disease, disaster, and revolution. Some may say that this was all foreshadowed, but honestly, I had never heard of murder hornets before this year and I’m willing to bet you hadn’t either.
So, as we inch to the new year, I can’t help but wonder if choosing a word this year is a naïve thing to do. I mean, how can we know what the days on the other side of January 1st will hold?
I’m feeling this, personally, r more than ever, as my husband and I expect our first child in the coming weeks. Beyond having no idea what to expect once we welcome this tiny human into our lives, we don’t know what the years ahead will hold for them. When will they meet their grandparents? What will childcare look like for them? Are baby play dates safe? Will they recognize our faces without a mask? The unknowns are endless.
So, instead, I choose to focus on what I do know. I know this child will be loved—near and far. I know that they will grow up in a different world than we did, and that will make them resilient and compassionate in a way we can’t understand yet. I know that they will be taught to love their bodies, enforce their boundaries, and respect those of others.
I guess, in a way, all we can focus on is the knowns: Who we love, how we choose to live, what integrity means for us all. It is the anchor we need to remember ourselves and how we will choose to show up for 2021.
It was by focusing on these knowns that I was finally able to choose my word for the year ahead. It was 4AM last night when a last burst of nesting instinct called me to our nursery. I walked around the room, taking in all of the details; hours of obsessive searching on Pinterest, planning, saving and sacrifice got us here. I sat in my rocking chair, smiling as I realized that embrace I’ve been waiting for all year will be of my newborn. I considered the color of the walls, a shade of barely-there shade of green I chose in part for its name—possibility. And that’s when it hit me – we may not know anything about 2021, but we know there’s possibility there, and for now that is enough. Yes, I decided. Possibility is the right word.
What will yours be for 2021?
Priyanka Saju is a Toronto-based writer, speaker, and follower of creative impulses. She embraces writing as a medium to give voice to her unresolved feelings as she navigates the middle places of cross-cultural upbringing, the pursuit of success, and the nature of womxnhood, self-acceptance, and resilience. Priyanka does this while approaching these topics with the type of humour and humility that can only be gained by tripping face-first into growth.