One Word - 2016

"Over the middle" by Matt   licensed under CC BY/ Cropped from original

On a January day, exactly one day after my thirtieth birthday, I splashed through icy puddles and a cold, relentless rain as I made my way from the campus parking lot to the orientation and registration building. I was thirty years old and I was shaking up my life to go back to school. I already had an English degree in my pocket, but degrees in English are fairly useless when you determine in your final semester that you were never meant to be a teacher. When you're still too unsure of your voice to think of yourself as a writer. For nearly ten years I'd been a clerical worker in a dental office, and the shine was gone. I knew that it was time to look forward at the rest of my life and make some changes.

At first I played with the idea of library science. It seemed a natural fit, was there anything in life I loved more than libraries and books? I researched library science programs, accumulated a folder of college brochures, studied for and took the Graduate Record Exam. There was only one big problem, the limited number of schools offering library science programs would require moving away from everything I held familiar with no guarantee I would return. Texas? Washington D.C.? Philadelphia? Kentucky? Where did I want to land? I looked at apartment costs. I considered city size. I thought about jumping into the unknown and being truly alone. I chickened out just short of actually submitting my application anywhere.

Still, doing nothing was not an option, at least not a viable one, so I looked at computer science programs at the local state university. This was safe. This was reasonable. This was risk with a safety net attached. I started off slowly, a few prerequisites at the community college. Trigonometry scared the hell out of me but somehow I survived it. (OK, I survived it thanks to the two aspiring engineers who formed a study group of sorts with me.)

One application process, one acceptance letter, and one financial aid form later led me to that dismal January day.

I learned a lot in the two and a half years I spent getting that degree. I learned to always, always, always arrive early to give myself enough time to find a parking space. I learned that I was good at accounting (and so I switched my major). I learned that technological advances could make registration a whole lot drier and faster, but possibly more frustrating, as long lines were replaced with phone systems that sometimes crashed. I learned that I was better at writing group papers than anyone else in my group, so I either needed to just write the thing myself or be prepared to edit a LOT. Mostly I learned that I was capable of more than I had imagined. I was, in fact, capable of being braver than I had imagined.

And yet, most of my life has been an exercise in taking the 'safe' route. Because truly, that's what the accounting degree was. Safe. Predictable. Boring. (Sometimes I refer to it as soul-sucking when I'm feeling dramatic.) It was a way for me to move on with my life while not really moving ON with my life, while still clinging to my little safety rafts. Sometimes I've kicked off from the raft, but panic always brings me back around. I'd rather cling to the safety of what is than strike out into the unknown of what could be.

And so we come to my One Word for 2016. Brave. From the moment I picked this word over a week ago I have seen it echoed again and again across the internet. It seems that 2016 really is the year to be brave.

I don't have any specific goals for 2016. (Except for 'drink more water and do more yoga' because I am reasonably certain I can handle that.) What I have, instead, is a desire to look for the areas where I need to be brave.

Sometimes for me that looks like just trying a new class at the gym. Doing something that I'm not good at and not worrying about what people will think. Not worrying that I might not belong.

It might look like calling someone up for a coffee date, or even inviting people over to our house for dinner. (Insert panic attack here.)

It's certain to look like being brave enough to pursue my passions, to risk rejection, to dream of what could be.

I want to live 2016 not clinging to my safety nets, not choosing the predictable, safe, boring route. I want to live it imagining what might happen if I stepped out of 'easy' and into 'brave'.

This morning my journaling prompt asked me to describe a journey and how the first step felt.

I think that the first step is often just giving voice to a thought, Setting it out where the light can shine on it, That first step is equally terrifying and freeing. Both a letting go of our safety rafts and a grabbing on to the hand of God. Trusting that the one who imbued us with our dreams, the very essence of our being, will not let us fall.

Yes, it might rain. There may be puddles to wade through and crazy parking lots to navigate. You may be cold and wet sometimes and wonder what exactly you are doing.

Be brave anyway,

Where do you need to be brave this year? What are the safety rafts that you are holding on to? What does letting go look like for you?


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